Bartlett warns of invisible threats associated with electronic activities

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TOURISM Minister Edmund Bartlett says the current trend of digitalisation means countries now have to be mindful of not only tangible threats, but also growing invisible threats associated with electronic activities.

The minister, who was participating in a two-day meeting in the United States Virgin Islands on the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery, said this is even more important, considering that most tourism-related commerce now takes place electronically.

“From destination research to bookings to reservations to room service to payment for vacation shopping… these are mostly done electronically,” the minister said.

“Destination security is no longer simply a matter of protecting international tourists and local lives from physical danger, but now also means protecting people against cyber threats such as identity theft, hacking of personal accounts and fraudulent transactions,” he added.

Bartlett said the problem has grown to such alarming levels where “we have seen sophisticated cyberterrorists” causing system-wide disruptions to essential services in some major countries in recent times.

He said this is even more unfortunate as most tourist destinations currently do not have any back-up plan to deal with cyber attacks.

“As we seek to build our resilience against the main threats to global tourism, an important element of an effective resilience framework is being able to anticipate catastrophic events,” the minister argued.

“This shifts the focus from responding to disruptions to preventing them in the first place. Building resilience will require a system approach based on strengthening collaborations at the national, regional and international levels,” added Bartlett.

He said Jamaica has chosen to take the lead “in responding to the call to build tourism resilience in the Caribbean” by creating the region’s first resilience centre — the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre — which was recently established at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus.

“The facility, which is the first of its kind, will assist with preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that impact tourism and threaten sector-dependent economies and livelihoods,” he pointed out.

Bartlett said the centre is focused on four key deliverables at the moment — the establishment of an academic journal on resilience and global disruptions; the drafting of a blueprint for resilience; the creation of a resilience barometer; and the establishment of an academic chair for resilience and innovation.

This, he added, is in keeping with the centre’s mandate to create, produce and generate toolkits, guidelines and policies to guide the recovery process. “The centre will be staffed by internationally recognised experts and professionals in the fields of climate management, project management, tourism management, tourism risk management, tourism crisis management, communication management, tourism marketing and branding as well as monitoring and evaluation,” the minister said.


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