Despite the impact of two Category 5 hurricanes last fall, high consumer demand for a Caribbean travel experience and increased tourism investments in hotels and airport improvements bode well for the future of the Caribbean's tourism sector, said Frank Comito, CEO and director general of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
"A growing number of travelers are understanding that the Caribbean is a vast region comprising many diverse destinations all rich in natural beauty but each distinct in its history, music, culture, food and welcoming hospitality," Comito said. "Just like a winter blizzard may affect the northeastern United States while people are sunbathing on Miami Beach, a weather incident in one part of the Caribbean does not affect the overwhelming majority of the Caribbean."
A CHTA study earlier this year revealed that 58 per cent of hoteliers have a positive or extremely positive outlook for the industry's future. This was reinforced by the record level of attendees at CHRIS as investor interest in the Caribbean has strengthened since the two Category 5 hurricanes of 2017. According to data recently collected by the World Travel and Tourism Council, hurricane-affected destinations themselves anticipate annual tourism spending growth of 8.7 per cent in 2019 through 2021.
Airlift increases and hotel growth
Bolstering the healthy growth and rapid recovery from the storms is the increased airlift coming into the region from North America and Europe, which Comito asserted is at a record pace.
The CHTA also reported on a major expansion thrust by leading hotel brands and chains and the debut in the region of new independent boutique and luxury hotels as well as the growth of the sharing economy.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, despite the devastation they wreaked, Comito contended, also delivered critical messages for the future of the region - more than 70 percent of which was unaffected by the storms: "The hurricanes taught us that the Caribbean is viewed as one brand in the minds of the public and the consumer. The lesson learned is that we've got to work more closely together as a region, public and private sectors, to let the world know about the lifetime of experiences and destinations which our vast region offers."