Multi-destination arrangement — a complementary tourism development strategy

Edmond Bartlett

Regionalism has long been established as a viable framework for promoting integration and cooperation in trade and other areas to improve the region’s competitiveness, deepen its integration into the global economy and resolve major socio-economic problems such as poverty and unemployment.

A large market created by integration can promote economies of scale, sharing of economic costs and benefits, transfer of knowledge and skills, and pooling of resources to achieve common goals to effectively address challenges. and shared risks. Tourism has been identified as one of the sectors with enormous potential to promote regional integration. The critical role that cross-border collaborations will play in promoting tourism competitiveness in regional contexts was recognized at the 2017 United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) International Tourism Conference, organized under the theme “Building public-private partnerships for sustainable tourism for development”. ‘ and commemorated the designation of 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Development. At the end of this conference, the consensus adopted was that regional governments and the private sector should work more closely together to advance regional integration by promoting and harmonizing legislation on air connectivity, visa facilitation, the development of products, promotion and human capital.

Indeed, the tourism industry is very competitive and requires sustainable and innovative marketing strategies to ensure long-term success. This is why, to this end, it has become increasingly necessary to strengthen cooperation networks between countries, in order to increase and better share the income generated by tourism. One of the strategies that can be employed in tourism to promote regional integration is the concept of multi-destination arrangement. The multi-destination strategy is one of three outcomes inherited from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 2017. A multi-destination agreement is based on joint partnerships involving governments, airlines, hotels , tour operators and attractions that will allow visitors to travel to two, three or more geographically close countries and stay in each destination.

Its promotion is in line with the growing view among tourism experts that the future of tourism in specific regions may lie in economic convergence between complementary economies rather than stand-alone approaches. The suggestion is that economies of similar size with shared vulnerabilities, similar level of development, and shared geographic borders might better complement each other and integrate better from an economic and trade perspective. This would be a rational approach to economic integration that would allow the benefits of tourism to be spread across more economies in a region, thereby generating more economic opportunities for more people. Indeed, successful multi-destination agreements can increase intra-regional and extra-regional tourism flows and promote mutual benefits for more destinations in the region.

The value of a multi-destination arrangement is that, as an approach to tourism development, it adds value to the tourism experience, while extending the benefits of tourism to more than one destination. In this regard, multi-destination tourism can be seen as one of the complementary means of diversifying the regional tourism industry while capitalizing on the natural and cultural assets of a region and contributing to social and economic growth. From a visitor’s perspective, a multi-destination tour package will offer travelers the opportunity to experience different destinations/locations, with each experience catering to a different visitor desire. By establishing a multi-destination critical mass, a critical mass will be created for large investments in hotels, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing. Additionally, small and medium enterprises will enter the market providing more goods and services, employing more people and generating more revenue for governments.

Several regions have already begun to explore the feasibility of multi-destination arrangements. Government agencies, tourist boards and private companies from seven Central American countries have launched a joint partnership to promote multi-destination travel in the region by offering travel packages at special rates. Eight packages are promoted and tours include destinations in two, three or even all seven countries. Options include offers to enjoy, for example, ecotourism in Costa Rica, culture in Guatemala and beach destinations along the Caribbean coast in Honduras. Similarly, Jamaica currently has four multi-destination agreements with the governments of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Panama and another is in the works with the government of the Cayman Islands.

These multi-destination agreements aim to advance regional integration by promoting and harmonizing legislation on air connectivity, visa facilitation, product development, marketing and human capital development. The convergence of the five countries has also created a market of over 60 million potential visitors and has been promoted as a package, through the respective tourist boards, to major tour operators, airlines and cruise lines. This constitutes a major development for the growth and expansion of tourism in the Caribbean region, as it has brought together five of the largest markets in the region. The agreements have created a mega-market which will now be able to attract large airlines, large tour operators but above all destinations will now be able to attract new emerging markets from faraway Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. East.

Despite its potential benefits from a regional perspective, certain prerequisites must be met for the successful implementation of multi-destination arrangements. Governments need to work closely together to address the issues of tourism costs, air connectivity, visa policy harmonization, airspace utilization and preclearance agreements. One possibility that can be effectively explored is that of adopting measures that would make it easier for tourists to travel to and between countries in the region, such as visa exemption for certain countries or a multiple-entry visa. There should also be willingness and commitment on the part of countries to coordinate marketing, product development and investment strategies. Governments are also urged to explore incentives and strategies to strengthen regional carriers; improve intra-regional travel; and through joint air transport agreements, increase links between regional and international airlines as part of an overall strategy to boost tourist arrivals.

Edmund Bartlett is Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism. He is MP for St James East Central and Leader of Government Affairs in the House of Representatives.

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