The minister-chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation(CTO), Hon.Kenneth Bryan of the Cayman Islands, has set the regional industry a challenge for growth as tourism in the Caribbean emerges from the pandemic.
Speaking at a CTO media event in Barbados this Mr Bryan who is also Cayman’s tourism minister, detailed several initiatives that the CTO under his chairmanship needs to address.
Some are already in the works including restructuring the regional tourism organisation.
“With the Caribbean being one of the most tourism-dependent regions in the world, and the industry moving from recovery to growth, there is an acute need to ensure that the CTO is appropriately sized and structured, to fulfill the needs and objectives of the members,” he stated.
“With this background in mind, consideration is being given to the restructuring of the organization and reforming its strategic vision and direction for the next five (5) years.”
The CTO has been without a Secretary General for some time and the minister-chairman reported that a new job description has been formulated and the role is now being advertised across the region.
There was welcome news that tourism arrivals and revenues were trending back to the 2019 pre-pandemic peak globally and in the Caribbean. This has also been evident in the Cayman Islands.
Neil Walters, the CTO’s Acting Secretary General reported that tourism in the year 2022 was characterized by strong recovery.
“According to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) approximately 917.0 million tourists travelled internationally in 2022. This level of arrivals was doubled that of 2021 and represented 62.6% of pre-pandemic levels.”
He also said that in 2022, the second full year of the global pandemic, the Caribbean tourism industry was resilient and built on the rebound that was noticeable from the middle of 2021. By the end of 2022, there were 28.3 million registered tourist visits in the Caribbean, approximately 52.4% more than there were in 2021. The region accounted for 3.1% of all arrivals worldwide, down one percentage point from the historically high share of 4.1% recorded in 2021.
The 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022 made up 88.6% of the visitors who arrived in 2019, which served as the baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic. Thus, he noted the Caribbean was one of the regions with the quickest recovery rates globally in 2022.
However, despite the encouraging figures, CTO minister-chairman Kenneth Bryan issued a word of caution warning that there are major long-standing stumbling blocks to be tackled. A main one is the issue of airlift.
POLICY SHIFT ON AIRLIFT
According to Mr Bryan, Caribbean governments will need to look at this issue, especially the cost of travel in the region which is impacted by taxes on the airline sector.
In what could be a landmark appeal for a policy shift on tissuesues Mr Bryan expounded: “Turning my attention now to the nagging issue of air connectivity, tourism is a significant economic driver for us all, and yet the lack of inter-regional air connectivity continues to pose a risk to our resilience and sustainability. It is a situation that has existed, and been talked about for decades, and has worsened due to the economic effects of the Covid pandemic.”
“Why?” he asked and proceeded to outline his case.
“The slowdown in tourism has caused airlines to re-evaluate their business structures and routes from a position of profitability more so than connectivity. Additionally, there is a global shortage of pilots also adding another layer of complexity to this long-standing issue. It would be illogical for me to promise a solution to this issue during my tenure as Chairman. But what I can, and will commit to, is getting the players around the table to forensically examine what we need to do as a unified region to improve this scenario and starting the ball rolling towards the solution.”
According to Mr Bryan, aside from the convenience, improving regional connectivity would have a knock-on effect that would positively influence travel for all sorts of reasons; such as business, leisure, sports, conferences and meetings, and could potentially transform the region.
He said the added benefit, aside from tourism, is that it would facilitate and encourage residents across the Caribbean to travel more easily to other islands to visit family and friends.
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