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Post-COVID 19: Challenging the tourism industry to be more resilient, responsible and sustainable
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Working paper series
Vikneswaran Nair
Janet Johnson
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Nassau, Bahamas
University of The Bahamas
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7 p.


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Ecotourism -- Bahamas
Sustainable development -- Tourism -- Bahamas
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Vikneswaran Nair, University of The Bahamas & Janet Johnson, Tourism Development Corporation

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Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 1 University of The Bahamas RESEARCH EDGE POST COVID 19: CHALLENGING THE TOURISM INDUSTRY TO BE MORE RESILIENT, RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE Vikneswaran Nair 1 & Janet Johnson 2 1 Graduate Studies & Research, University of T he Bahamas , Nassau, The Bahamas Email: 2 Tourism Development Corporation The Bahamas E mail: Working Paper Series No. 37 , April 20 20


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 2 University of The Bahamas The Office of Graduate Studies & Research of the University of The Bahamas publishes RESEARCH EDGE Working Paper Series electronically. © Copyright is held by the author or authors of each Working Paper. RESEARCH EDGE Working Paper Series cannot be republished, reprinted or reproduced in any format without the permission Note: The views expressed in each paper are those of the author or aut hors of the paper. They do not represent the views of the Office of Graduate Studies & Research and University of The Bahamas. Compiled and edited by: Dr. Vikneswaran Nair Dr. Earla Carey Baines Virginia Ballance Office of Graduate Studies & Research University of The Bahamas University Drive P.O. Box N 4912, Nassau, The Bahamas Tel: (242) 397 2601/2602 E mail:


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 3 University of The Bahamas POST COVID 19: CHALLENGING THE TOURISM INDUSTRY TO BE MORE RESILIENT, RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE Vikneswaran Nair 1 & Janet Johnson 2 1 Graduate Studies & Research, University of T he Bahamas , Nassau, The Bahamas Email: 2 Tourism Development Corporation The Bahamas E mail: EXTENDED ABSTRACT In the aftermath of the 2019 Category 5 Hurricane Dorian that flattened parts of The Bahamas (Abaco and East Grand Bahama), Tourism Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar, indicated rous storm only affecting a small part of the country, visitors ( Russell, 2019, September 2). All tourism projections in the region especially in tourism dependent countries like The Bahamas, Jamaica and Barbados were affected. Further, it was also report that The Bahamas lost 20,000 cruise ship passengers during this period, as passengers were diverted to elsewhere to avoid the storm. Thus, regional crisis can play a crucial role in the sustainability of the Caribbean region. Fast forward today, we are in a global health pandemic. On 18 March 2020, the Minister addressed the Parliament with an important me ssage that post COVID largest source markets (which is the United States), and t he social and economic fallout they will likely face. He said, 19 and the unprecedented challenges ahead, our response may very well be judged as the most defining moment in our history ( Maura, 2020, March 19 ). Over the past decade, The Bahamas have been blessed with the good fortune t hat, year after year, tourism has steadily improved even as hurricanes battered the region, and to the global domestic product (GDP) was the highest in the regio n at 40.4 percent, and accounted for 48 percent of total direct employment (I A DB a , 2020) . IADB further reported that a s imilar trend is also seen in 2019 with a record 7.2 million visitors to the archipelago (air arrivals grew by 6.7 percent; cruise traff ic grew by 10.3 percent; and total arrivals grew by 9.4 percent). Even at the start of 2020, despite recovering from Hurricane Dorian, the overall arrivals had increased by almost 8 percent. Hence, a positive trend is observed in terms of the total foreign arrivals to The Bahamas by air and sea, and to all the islands of The Bahamas. Similar to The Bahamas, the economies in the Caribbean are among the most tourism dependent in the world (ranging from 35 to 50 percent of GDP for Th e Bahamas, Jamaica and Bar bados ( Mooney, Rosenblatt & Zegarra, 2020). In terms of contribution to the overall employment, these three countries are also ranked in the top 20 globally. A large proportion of the arrivals and receipts comes from the cruise tourism. With the COVID 19 p andemic


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 4 University of The Bahamas totally shutting down the tourism industry including the cruise industry, countries in the Caribbean are in dire need to re strategise. COVID 19 pandemic that we are experiencing may be without precedent, particularly for the Caribbean region. While there have been epidemics in recent years like the Ebola (2013 to 2016) and Zika (2015 to 2016) ( Mooney, Rosenblatt & Zegarra, 2020 ) , these health hazard do not appear to have had major implications for travel and tourism to the region. Despite the short term crisis, the industry has always bounced back. The Caribbean tourism also suffered significant drop in arrivals during the global financial crises which was an external economic impact that was beyond the control of the region. Nonetheless, the r egion bounced back quickly. Today, as the region face global shutdown of the industry, the crisis will lead to a severe economic shock to even the advanced economies like the US and UK. Hence, this may trigger an important shift in travel preferences and t he whole tourism landscape. Further analysis of the Inter Ame rican Development Bank (IDB) 2020 report ( Mooney & Zegarra, 2020, March 16 ; Mooney, Rosenblatt & Zegarra, 2020) , the current crisis will have massive impact on the direct and total contribution highlight that the impacts of a short lived crisis on tourism driven output would be considerably less damaging than one that extends through the peak season beginning later in the year particularly for countries with larg e sea sonal variations. Based on the report, for the worst case scenario if 75 percent shock magnitude (percent loss of tourism activity) was applied with the industry remain shut from April to end December 2020, this will in turn impact the contribution to the GDP between 11 to 26 percent for The Bahamas, 7 to 20 percent for Barbados and 5 to 17 percent for Jamaica, for the direct contribution and total contribution relative to the pre COVID 19 baseline expectation. Nonetheless, countries that are less tour ism dependent would be less affected in this scenarios. Thus, the magnitude of this impact will depend crucially on the spread of the virus, duration of the outbreak, measures countries in the region and elsewhere undertake to insulate themselves, and eac particularly tourism dependence. In short, a prolonged crisis will certainly have a more amplified impact on the economy of the Caribbean. On 27 March 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) sent out calls on all their stakeholders to include tourism a s a priority in recovery plans and actions. UNWTO projected a negative growth with a down of 20 to 30 percent in terms of arrivals which makes up to an estimated loss of USD300 to 450 billion in receip t ( World Tourism Organisation, 2020, September 16) . This is massive. With small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that make up the bulk of the tourism sector, the impact on the local economy can be severe especially in tourism dependent countries. Hence, UNWTO calls all their members to prepare for the recovery. Political and f inancial commitments is key for this recovery. As small island nation, most countries in The Caribbean will always be vulnerable. Building resilience in small island economies is import ant for its long term sustainability and existence. These small islands are impacted by the external shock that is beyond their control economically and environmentally. Economic and environmental vulnerability re to harmful external shocks. Most small island nations specialise in a narrow range of products and have a limited domestic market. The service sectors are life blood for many small island developing states (SIDS) economies. Thus, planning and managing t he tourism industry well is important to ensure the


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 5 University of The Bahamas environment that the industry in reliant on is not significantly degraded, especially in the coastal zones. Climate related changes and environmental degradation is already having a significant impact on to deal with the health impact. as we speak! The future is uncertain at this juncture. However, what is certain is, a business as usual approach is almost certainly wrong. All tourism related stakeholder must innovate a new approach. The current crisis may not be a one off as we may be facing similar or different types of crisis more freque ntly that will require the industry to transform for the better. system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentia (Walker, Holling, C arpenter, & Kinzig, 200 4 ). Basically it means to regroup, re evaluate, rebuild and recover. Finding ways to advance despite adversity. Over the past two decades there have been m any modals of crisis management that has been introduced by scholars and have been adopted in many countries pre, during and post crisis. The tourism dependent countries in The Caribbean will always be confronting crisis and hence a holistic and long ter m plan is much needed for the region to remain resilient. Good governance is key when you talk about resilience. It is an important element of policy making. Building capacity for economic resilience is dependent upon the availability of technological, fin ancial and social capital. Diversification of tourism dependent economies is key to reduce the impact during crisis. Agriculture is one of the sector that needs to be emphasised in small island nations including the Caribbean. Agriculture can ensure food security in the region by reducing import dependence. This sector can be transformed by being more innovative to attract youth. Bringing tourism into play with agriculture in the form of agritourism is certainly the way forward for the Caribbean. Enhancin g the business climate in the Caribbean is one aspect of resilience. Countries in the Caribbean need to ensure and focus on making it easier to do business here. Is the current polices, business friendly especially for countries coming out of severe crisis situation. Policies must be in place to incentivise and ease the recovery of tourism businesses impacted by the crisis especially for the more than 80 percent SMEs that is supporting and relying on the industry in the Caribbean. These businesses need assi stance in times of crisis. If these businesses fail, the social impact on the local community will be bad. Having a strong reserve of funds will allow for a continued strong marketing effort during an economic downturn (in which traditional funding source s such as hotel tax may be in decline). Having funds always available in a downturn will allow destination marketing organisations (DMOs) to continue their normal marketing efforts without loss of efficiency due to restricted funding. In the current crisis that the industry is facing. Working regionally with partners in the Caribbean is as important. The Caribbean is comprised of diverse destinations. Each is distinctive and offers unique attractions, culture and experiences. However, in the mind of many leisure travellers, the region offers an essentially similar product beautiful beaches and weather. All travellers, research and evaluate the region before planning the travel itinerary country by country, islan d by island.


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 6 University of The Bahamas Hence, the stability of the destination even during crisis is important. Regional cooperative marketing and branding is a win win for all the countries in the region. Promote domestic tourism and regional tourism. Regional affordable transfer via budget airline and cruise/water taxis is the way forward for the Caribbean to remain sustainable and self reliant. Market the region rather focusing on selling the country. In conclusion, to move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to on e of resilience, small island economies in the Caribbean must also explore new areas of economic economies should be designed to exploit the inter linkages between sectors lik e agriculture, tourism, information and communication technologies (ICT), and finance. Another approach is by focusing on green economy for all nations in the Caribbean. In that context, the development, dissemination and transfer of efficient energy techn ologies can assist SIDS in mitigating the effects of climate change should be a priority. There is also a dire need to develop smart partnerships between public, private and development partners. These partnerships are key for the Caribbean region to be se lf sustaining and resilient in terms of infrastructure, transport and communication and access to capital. In short, p ost COVID 19, The Bahamas tourism industry must transform itself . T his presentation discusses the potential impact of this global pandemic to the tourism industry in the Caribbean in general and The Bahamas in particular. The focus of the discussion will also look at the post crisis strategies and long term strategic direction that needs to be reflected to get the tourism industry in The Bahamas more resilient, responsible and sustainable. Keywords: COVID 19, resilient, responsible tourism, sustainable tourism References Mooney, H., & Zegarra , M. A. (2020, March 16). COVID 19: Tourism based shock scenarios for Caribbean countries. C aribbeanDevTrends. dev trends/en/covid 19 tourism based shock scenarios for caribbean countries/ Mooney, H., Rosenblatt, D., & Zegarra, M. A. (2020). Caribbean economies in the time of the coronovirus. Caribbean Quarterly Bulletin, 9 (1), 1 1 6. olume_9_Issue_1_April_202 0.pdf 19. mine_impact_of_COVID19.html Russell, K. (2019, September 2). D'Aguilar fears blow to tourism from hurricane. The Tribune . fears blow to tourism from hurricane/ World Tourism Organisation. (2020, September 16). Actions for a sustainable recovery of tourism. for a sustainable recovery of tourism Walker, B., Holling, C. S., Carpenter, S. R., & Kinzig, A. (2004). Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social ecological systems. Ecology and Society , 9 (2), 9 pages.


Research Edge Working Paper Series, no. 37 p. 7 University of The Bahamas RESEARCHER BRIEF BIODATA Vikneswaran Nair, Ph.D . Dean, Graduate Studies & Research University of The Bahamas Email: Dr. Vik Nair is currently the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and Professor in Sustainable Tourism at the University of The Bahamas (UB). Prior to joining UB in August 2017, Dr. Nair was ssor of Sustainable Tourism, at the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts; Programme Leader for the Responsible Rural Tourism Network; Research Fellow of the Centre for Research and Innovation in Tourism (CRiT) and the founding Director of the C entre for Research and Development at the University. A achievements with more than 350 publications to his credit have earned him many international and national awa rds. He completed his first consultancy work in The Bahamas when he led the in 2017. Currently he is working on numerous consultancy projects in The Bahamas with Tourism Development Corporation and the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection. His research specialisation is in Sustainable and Responsible Tourism, Rural Tourism, Ecotourism Management, Environmental Management, Community based Tourism an d Green Tourism. Janet Johnson CEO & Executive Director Bahamas Tourism Development Corporation, The Bahamas Email: 1977 and after completing studies in Manchester, England she joined the Ministry of Tourism in 1979 and transferred to London office until 1986 when she briefly returned to Nassau. In 1988 Janet moved to the United States, assigned to the Boston Office and then over an 1 8 year period, held subsequent postings in Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Janet currently serves as the CEO & Executive Director for the Tourism Development Association of The Bahamas, a new entity created in 2018 that is a private sect or arm of the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation. As a veteran tourism employee of 40 odd years, she spent twenty six years abroad representing The Islands o f The Bahamas in various leadership positions. Janet now applies this vast experience and marketing pro wess in her everyday work, thinking about how best to support and guide local entrepreneurs entering and operating in the tourism field. Her mantra is to help to uplift the quality of life for all Bahamians by encouraging ownership and self employment vers us settling for the usual employee status in our robust tourism industry. In her civic work she also serves in leadership positions in: Bahamas National Trust, Queens College Foundation, Zonta Club of Nassau, the International Culture, Wine & Food Festival to name a few. She is an inactive Rotarian 2005 2012 and served as the Disaster Relief Chair for Rotary Clubs of The Bahamas from 2008 2012.