In response to the impact of the 2017 hurricane season on the Caribbean’s tourism sector, the World Travel & Tourism Council has launched a report on resilience and recovery assessing the immediate and long-term effect across the region.
Analysis from Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics subsidiary, found that tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in the Caribbean, contributing 15.2 per cent of the Caribbean’s GDP and 13.8 per cent of employment.
However, in around half of the countries analysed, the sector accounts for over 25 per cent of GDP – more than double the world average of 10.4 per cent.
The 46.7 million international visitors who visited the region in 2016 spent US$31.4 billion, which supported 2.4 million jobs.
The 2017 hurricane season resulted in an estimated loss of 826,100 visitors to the Caribbean, compared to pre-hurricane forecasts.
These visitors would have generated US$741 million and supported 11,005 jobs.
Research suggests that recovery to previous levels could take up to four years, resulting in an approximate loss of US$3 billion.
Quantifying the impact on tourism post-crisis provides a level of understanding of the enormous economic contribution that the sector brings to the region and the impetus for recovery.
Natural disasters will continue to hit the Caribbean, perhaps on an increasingly frequent basis as a result of climate change.
As the economies of islands grow ever more reliant on the sector, it is critical that governments and destination management organisations develop strategies to minimise the long-term impact of natural disasters and encourage visitor spending to return to pre-hurricane levels of growth.
Gloria Guevara Manzo, president, WTTC, commented: “Crisis preparedness and response is one of WTTC’s strategic priorities.
“We are delighted to present this research which helps the tourism industry, both public and private sectors, in the Caribbean quantify the potential impact of the devastating hurricanes last year and put in place partnerships and policies to help bring the region, and those islands most negatively affected, back on track.”
She added: “Timeframes for recovery can be significantly reduced when governments work alongside the private sector to implement policy initiatives that are supportive for tourism growth and long-term resilience.
“WTTC strongly encourages these conversations and together with our members, we are working hard to support local communities as they rebuild and recover and ensure resilience against future crises.”