Thursday, October 1, 2020

The urgency of transforming Caribbean tourism

In this 2019 file photo, a visitor from the cruise ship MV Ventura takes some steps with a Tobago dancer as other visitors look on at the Scarborough port, Tobago. The Ventura was on its maiden voyage to Tobago, bringing 2,914 passengers.

Therese Turner-Jones

World Tourism Day, celebrated on September 27, comes at a sobering time for the Caribbean. Travel is unlikely to return to normalcy for another year, or even well into 2022. We need to make this a transformational moment to emerge from the pandemic stronger. We must move away from being merely tourist dependent. We need to harness the industry to make our islands safer, greener and more resilient.

Tourism has had a big but narrow economic impact. Big in that it is our main economic sustenance. Pre-pandemic it accounted for between 34 per cent and 48 per cent of GDP in The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica. Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda and The Bahamas are the three most tourist-dependent economies in the world. Fourteen of the 15 most tourism dependent nations in the Americas are in the Caribbean.

But the impact is also narrow. Many tourists came in cruise ships and stayed for short periods. Or they stayed in properties on our beaches to enjoy the warm waters and golden sands. There is nothing wrong with this. Nature has blessed us with coastline beauty we can share with our visitors.

We can do much more, however, to make the experience for tourists richer, to the benefit of more Caribbean citizens.  Read more >>