Caribbean tourism industry remains hopeful of gradual rebound
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) remains positive about the continued rebound of the tourism industry even in the face of the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic
Over the past eighteen months, Caribbean destinations, without exception, have shown their resilience in creating strategies for recovery, incorporating frequently updated travel protocols, and collaborations with regional and international partners in the areas of health and economic support and development. Recovery in each instance, has taken place while ensuring the health and safety of residents and visitors alike.
The year 2021 has given us an indication that there is light at the end of what has been a long tunnel which began in March 2020. By mid-2021, we saw a turnaround in tourism activity, with the Caribbean exceeding the global average for stayover arrival growth and tourism’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). During the third quarter of 2021, there were 5.4 million tourist arrivals to the region, almost three times the arrivals for the same period in 2020, but still 23.3 per cent below 2019 levels. Preliminary reports suggest that this progress continued through to the end of the last quarter. Consequently, it is estimated that tourist arrivals for 2021 will exceed 2020 levels by 60 to 70 per cent.
As we begin 2022, once again grappling with the effects of a new variant which is also affecting international travel adversely, we are heartened by the recovery experiences and the lessons learnt in 2021.
These experiences and lessons have taught us that travel and hospitality can co-exist with the pandemic affecting both our destinations and markets. While the results to date have not indicated a return to 2019 levels, the exceptional results recorded in the summer to year-end period of 2021 show that a scaled or gradual rebound is likely and very possible by the end of 2022.
Recovery strategies, continuously being adapted to existing circumstances, based on continued partnerships and collaboration, advocating for safe and healthy visitor experiences and prioritising the health of residents, have proven to be the formula for recovery of the sector.
The year 2022 is being observed as the year of wellness in the Caribbean, with a focus on renewal. Given the Caribbean’s unique diversity, destination by destination, visitors to our shores will discover endless options to be rejuvenated in the region. Similarly, we encourage Caribbean nationals to explore and rediscover the diversity within their own destinations and those around them.
Even as we work on our short-term strategies for recovery of the sector, we urge longer term approaches to promote sectoral sustainability. Building on our 2021 World Tourism Day message, we encourage moving towards social inclusion and creating smart destinations based on smart businesses as key planks which will lead to sustainability. Our human resources, which are our key assets, are critical to the success of the sector. During 2022, the CTO hopes to build on a regional study of human resources to maintain the excellence of our hospitality.
Clearly there is a demand for the region’s tourism product, as shown by our ability to outpace the global growth average for arrivals. It is our responsibility to ensure that we continue to position the region to meet this demand in new and refreshed ways.