While the Cayman Islands has seen its tourism sector die a death from Covid restrictions, the rest of the Caribbean’s tourism industry had been recovering quicker than any other region in the world. This is according to the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council.
According to the WTTC, the Caribbean’s travel and tourism sector is seeing its contribution to GDP expected to rise more than 47% this year, compared to just 30.7% globally, the recovery of the sector globally having been hindered by the lack of international coordination, severe travel restrictions and slower vaccination rates, they stated. In comparison, the Caribbean (except for the Cayman Islands) has been benefiting from more relaxed restrictions around the world and low infection rates, which in turn boosted international travel spend and aided the region’s swift economic recovery.
This 30.7% year-on-year increase from travel and tourism in 2021 for the rest of the world still represented a huge amount, at USD 1.4 trillion, and was mainly driven by domestic spending, while the Caribbean region could expect a year-on-year increase of 47.3%, representing a healthy increase of nearly USD 12 billion, driven by both international and domestic travel spend.
The WTTC noted that while this figure for the rest of the Caribbean was up, it was still below its performance in 2019, a record year for the sector, where travel and tourism represented more than 14% of the region’s GDP, contributing more than USD 58 billion to its economy.
In 2020, 680,000 travel and tourism jobs were lost across the Caribbean region, equating to almost a quarter of all jobs in the sector. However, this year WTTC’s research revealed an expected 12% rise in jobs (compared to 0.7% globally), with a similar potential year-on-year jobs rise across the sector next year, by a positive 11.5%.
But a new spike in Covid cases across the region could put paid to the glowing recovery as predicted by WTTC, with the more infectious Delta variant causing increases in cases in countries such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados and St Lucia. This has been fuelled by a low uptake of the vaccine caused by misinformation about vaccine efficacy swirling around these countries.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank, a full recovery of the economic activity found in Caribbean countries pre-pandemic could take until 2024.
The WTTC said economic recovery could take place at a pace if Caribbean countries allowed fully vaccinated travellers to move freely, irrespective of their origin or eventual destination, and if they implemented digital solutions which enable all travellers to easily prove their Covid status, in turn speeding up the process at borders around the world. They also said that further measures could also include the recognition of all vaccines authorised by WHO, and the agreement from all relevant authorities that international travel was safe with enhanced health and safety protocols, as well as vaccine equity, to ensure no region was left behind. Should these measures be taken, the positive impact on the economy and jobs could be considerable, it said.