Despite challenges, Caribbean tourism leads economic recovery
According to data from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and Forward Keys, the region is still outpacing the rest of the world when it comes to recovery.
“Again, the Caribbean continues to lead the way in travel recovery,” CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig said, kicking off a virtual event on the state of Caribbean tourism. “The Caribbean is moving out of recovery and into growth.”
The latest figures show that the Caribbean is only 1% below 2019 levels based on air traffic — whereas most regions around the world are still significantly lagging.
Notably, the 10 most resilient destinations within the Caribbean, including USVI, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominican Republic, Curacao, Jamaica, Aruba, and Puerto Rico, are already exceeding 2019 levels.
“That’s very good news for the Caribbean as we continue to grow,” she added.
Looking ahead to spring and summer, the forecast continues to look bright.
“Spring and summer is set to surpass our 2019 levels, which is great news. We’re looking at a 20% projection for spring, and that’s for the March to May period versus the same period in 2019, and for summer, we’re looking at a 48% increase for the June to August period.”
Meanwhile, occupancy levels across hotels and resorts are nearly on par to where they were in 2019, but the average daily rates have increased.
Madden-Greig also shared insights from CHTA’s annual tourism industry performance and outlook survey, which was conducted from Feb. 1 to 15th across 91 Caribbean-tourism related businesses. She pointed out that nearly 1/5 businesses recorded a loss in profits in 2022 so challenges still remain on the road to recovery.
“Sometimes we look at recovery in terms just stopover arrivals and the upfront numbers, not realizing the cost of operations and the challenges of what we have to come out of with nearly two years of almost no sales for the industry,” she shared.
A positive outlook is that most hotels anticipate occupancy rates and average daily rates to continue to increase this year.
“Generally, there’s a very positive outlook in terms of the economy and how we’re going forward, and the strength of Caribbean tourism,” she said.
Some of the challenges that remain include labour shortages, sargassum, the need for reasonably priced airlift, and some negative perceptions around safety and crime. While stopover arrivals have largely recovered, she noted that cruise passenger levels aren’t yet what they were pre-pandemic.
“Despite these challenges, as an industry we remain bullish about the future of tourism in the Caribbean is really strong,” she said.