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Tourism in Caribbean facing “worst crisis” after ¾ drop in arrivals over months of pandemic

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caribbean tourism

Posted: Monday, December 14, 2020. 7:04 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Minister of Tourism of Jamaica, and new chairman of the Working Group on Accelerating the Recovery of the Airline and Cruise Industries in the Post-Pandemic Stage of the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Committee on Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has told the Jamaica Gleaner that the Caribbean region must roll up its sleeves for a hard slog to return tourism to its perch atop the region’s best products.

With a steep 75 percent drop in tourist arrivals for the last three quarters of 2020, the Caribbean is expected to contract by 20-30 percent this year, says Bartlett, who cautions that it will require some out-of-the-box thinking and a stick-to-it-iveness approach by regional and international policymakers for the Caribbean to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that tourism-dependent nations in the region have been so hard hit that nothing short of a concerted approach and a firm acknowledgment of the crisis at hand by world powers will give the Caribbean a fair shot at recovery in the quickest time possible.

“The United Nations World Tourism Organization has described the current pandemic as the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since records began in 1950,” Bartlett noted.

“It has been projected that for 2020, between US$910 billion and US$1.2 trillion will be lost in export revenues from tourism and 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk as a result of international travel restrictions and reduced global demand.”

The economic impact has set up the region for its most severe contraction in more than a century – 6.2 percent regionwide.

The tourism minister, who also heads the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) and is tasked with leading the region’s recovery effort, said the GTRCMC will continue to strengthen collaboration with its network of local, regional, and international partners to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on destinations, as well as to identify effective strategies for their recovery and to enhance their preparedness and responsiveness to future shocks.

The Caribbean region is most-tourism-dependent internationally for revenue and jobs, with 16 of 28 economies, about 33 percent of GDP and over 52 percent of export receipts, supported from the British Virgin Islands, with 92.6 percent dependence on Antigua and Barbuda (54 percent); Belize (42 percent); Barbados (41 percent); Dominica (38 percent) and Jamaica (34 percent). It employs directly more than 400 thousand workers and many more indirectly as a labor-intensive project, making the region more vulnerable to COVID-19 which has eliminated close contact among humans.

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