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The Future of Caribbean Travel

Front Pages 15 Sep, 2022 Follow News

The Future of Caribbean Travel

Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President in the Americas

Tourism and Transport Minister Kenneth Bryan at the IATA Caribbean Aviation Day conference

By Lindsey Turnbull

Delegates attending this year’s Caribbean Aviation Day, held by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, heard how turning the Caribbean into a multi-destination location for holiday-makers and local residents would transform the region’s travel and tourism industry.

Peter Cerdá, IATA’s Regional Vice President in the Americas, underscored the importance the industry played to the region’s economy, advising that the travel industry contributed to 13.9% of GDP and 15.2% of all jobs in the Caribbean before the pandemic hit and that eight out of 10 people globally who work in tourism-dependent-countries work in this region. 

“One of the lessons over the past two years is that governments and the aviation value chain must find better ways to co-operate and communicate on a holistic level with the aim of jointly ensuring the socio and economic well-being of this region prospers,” he advised.

While global traffic numbers had reached 74.6% of pre-crisis level and the Caribbean had done even better at 81%, and international connectivity between the Caribbean and the Americas and Europe had largely been restored, travelling within the region remained a challenge, Mr Cerdá said.

“In many cases, the only way to reach other islands in the Caribbean is via Miami or Panama City. That is concerning,” he stated.

Caribbean as a multi-destination

He felt this was a market that needed to be served, not only for business and local travelling but also to allow the region to become a multi-destination for vacationers, advising that selling and marketing the Caribbean as a multi destination was becoming increasingly important as inflationary pressures would have an adverse effect on disposable incomes in key Caribbean markets like Canada, Europe and the United States.

Mr Cerdá said that being able to offer a variety of experiences for travellers looking to spend their hard-earned cash would be the key to the region’s success. These travellers would also be looking for a simplified experience but various infrastructure issues such as regulatory ones continued to hamper connectivity between islands.

“Together with those in charge at the government level, we need an urgent move into the digital age to provide better customer service, a better experience and more efficient and secure airline operations,” he stated.

Mr Cerdá said there had been a lot of chatter about connecting up the Caribbean over the years and he encouraged the industry to follow the Nike slogan and “just do it”.

“It’s good business for government, it’s good for the aviation industry and tourism and it’s going to be good for the travelling public regardless of whether you live in the Caribbean or you’re visiting the Caribbean.”  

Tourism and Transport Minister Kenneth Bryan echoed these sentiments in his opening address to the conference, acknowledging the need for the industry to move forward as a region.

“As the industry moves through this sustained phase of recovery, reconnection and revival, the need to address the challenges and opportunities that existed prior to the pandemic along with the new ones that have emerged is now even more acute,” he said.

Minister Bryan asked the audience - comprising of key regional tourism and travel stakeholders and government representatives - how many had travelled to Cayman directly, and how many had had to travel via or stay overnight in Miami, underscoring the need to better connect the region.

“Within our Caribbean context, is that just the way it is, or is the lack of efficient east/west connectivity within our region a major vulnerability?” he pondered.

He continued: “Tourism is a signific economic driver for all of us in this region, yet the lack of inter-regional air connectivity often makes travelling to neighbouring islands seem like a long-haul journey.”

Minister Bryan said that the idea of regional integration underpinned by a regional visa which would facilitate travel by tourists had been talked about for decades and those discussions had not as yet led to any tangible actions or conclusions.

“Strategically, improving regional connectivity could potentially transform our region. It could have a positive impact on our regional and national tourism visitors could fly into one island and fly home from another island,” he confirmed.

Turning that potential into a reality would require a thorough analysis of the pros and the cons and a cohesive and coordinated effort, if the region’s stakeholders decided to give it a try

Minister Bryan said he looked forward to discussion on multi-destination tourism for the region at the conference.

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