Stewart urges continued unity in tourism industry

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Painting a picture of tourism stakeholders across the globe uniting against the common enemy that was COVID-19, Sandals Resorts International Executive Chairman Adam Stewart on Tuesday appealed for that collaborative spirit to continue.

“It’s not what Sandals experienced. It’s what we all went through together. And, collectively, it was the first time that the cruise ships and the land base were working with the airlines. We were working with companies like the Wynn Corporation and Disney. Everyone came together. Jamaica was a microcosm of what was taking place in the Caribbean. The Caribbean was a microcosm of what was taking place worldwide, and we came together in a way that showed that when there is a big enough problem people can set aside competitive tensions and work to the greater good. And I think I’d like to see a lot more of that as we move forward,” added Stewart, who is also executive chairman of the Jamaica Observer.

He was one of the panellists who explored the theme ‘A Conversation on the Future of Global Tourism’ during the first day of the two-day Invest Jamaica Business Conference 2022 now under way at Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

Jamaica’s ability to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, Stewart said, was possible because the Government and the business community tackled the problem together.

“For the first time ever — certainly, in my years, and I don’t think anything has ever happened like this before — you saw the connectivity and the maturity of Jamaica’s democracy. You saw the trust and the respect between public and private sector come together in a way that we’ve probably never seen before. And it proved to us that we can solve any problem that we have, either as a country or as a region, if we come together,” he said.

In times of great uncertainty, he said, “Jamaica made a lot of very good decisions very swiftly and that allowed the country to reopen in a safe way.”

The tourism sector has been credited with driving Jamaica’s strong recovery post-COVID. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the country’s economy grew by 4.3 per cent during the July to September quarter of 2022, in comparison to the same period in 2021, with the tourism and hospitality sector contributing significantly.

The PIOJ said the real value-added for the hotel and restaurant sector was estimated to have grown by 29.6 per cent over the July to September 2022 quarter. Stopover visitor arrivals for the July to August 2022 period increased by 42 per cent relative to the corresponding period of 2021.

On Tuesday the Jamaican Government’s handling of the pandemic was also praised by panellist Fernando Fernandez, vice-president – development, Apple Leisure Group.

“What we love with Jamaica was that the Government acted very rapidly and provided the best solutions that were out there. Nobody knew really what to do. A lot of governments were accused of not acting properly, but in my mind, it’s like it’s a very difficult situation that you can never deal with. And you just try different options. But Jamaica tried and it worked. So we were able to reopen our hotels,” he said.

“We have around 1,500 rooms in Jamaica, and we were able to open our hotels in a very short period of time and start the recovery. And, thankfully, resorts have proved to be very resilient to these kinds of situations. And right now we are living in an amazing time. I mean, all these frustrations, all these savings that people did because they were not able to travel, they were not able to do anything. So now we are enjoying that post-COVID period. People want to travel, people want to have a… vacation, they want to forget about that nightmare. So we are enjoying that and the industry has been in a very good position for the last couple of years,” he added.

The panel also included Marie McKenzie, senior vice-president – government and destinations affairs, Carnival Corporation; and Senator Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. It was moderated by senior editor at Investment Monitor Viola Caon.

The conference continues today.

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