The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) says it “remains positive” about the continued rebound of tourism, despite 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,” wrote the Barbados-based CTO in a release on Thursday (Jan. 13). “Recovery in each instance, has taken place while ensuring the health and safety of residents and visitors alike.”
If last year’s arrivals indicated anything, it’s that there is light at the end of “what has been a long tunnel,” the CTO said.
By mid-2021, the Caribbean saw a turnaround in tourism activity, exceeding the global average for stayover arrival growth and tourism’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), the CTO said.
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,” the CTO said. “Consequently, it is estimated that tourist arrivals for 2021 will exceed 2020 levels by 60 to 70 per cent.”
The CTO admitted that Caribbean destinations, like all places, are grappling with the effects of the Omicron variant.
However: “We are heartened by the recovery experiences and the lessons learnt in 2021,” the organization said.
“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.”
Continuously adapting strategies to reflect the health situation, embracing partnerships collaboration, while advocating for safe and healthy visitor experiences while prioritizing the health of residents have “proven to be the formula for recovery of the sector,” the organization said.
“The year 2022 is being observed as the year of wellness in the Caribbean, with a focus on renewal,” it said. “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.”
The CTO is also calling for longer term approaches to promote sectoral sustainability.
Building on its 2021 World Tourism Day message, the organization urges 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,” the CTO said.
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,” said the CTO. “It is our responsibility to ensure that we continue to position the region to meet this demand in new and refreshed ways.”