The news out of London earlier this week was that the Caribbean’s Travel & Tourism sector is recovering at a faster rate than any other region in the world, with its contribution to the region’s GDP expected to rise more than 47% this year, compared to just 30.7% globally.
That’s according to new research revealed Wednesday by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, says that the recovery of the sector globally has been hindered by the lack of international coordination, severe travel restrictions and slower vaccination rates.
However, the Caribbean is now benefiting from more relaxed restrictions around the world and low infection rates, which is in turn boosting international travel spend and aiding the region’s swift economic recovery.
While the global economy is set to receive a modest 30.7% year-on-year increase from Travel & Tourism in 2021 (representing US$ 1.4 trillion) and is mainly driven by domestic spending, the Caribbean region can expect a year-on-year increase of 47.3%, representing an increase of nearly US$ 12 billion, driven by both international and domestic travel spend.
However, while the Caribbean is recovering faster than other regions, this is still below its performance in 2019 — a record year for the sector when Travel & Tourism represented more than 14% of the region’s GDP, contributing more than US$ 58 billion to its economy.
The research also reveals that at the current rate of recovery, Travel & Tourism’s contribution to the Caribbean economy could see a further year-on-year rise of 28.7% in 2022, representing a boost of US$ 10 billion.
The data reveals that domestic spending growth is set to be stronger than the international in all regions except for the Caribbean — and at the current rate of recovery international visitor spend across the region could see a year-on-year rise of 61.7% in 2021, ahead of domestic spend which could witness a rise of 52.6%.
Next year, international spend can continue to rise with a further year-on-year jump of 43.1%, with domestic spending being also increasing by 13.6%.
Last year, when damaging travel restrictions brought much of international travel to a grinding halt, 680,000 Travel & Tourism jobs were lost across the popular holiday Caribbean region – or, almost a quarter (25%) of all jobs in the sector.
However, this year the research reveals an expected 12% rise in jobs (compared to a meagre 0.7% globally), with a similar potential year-on-year jobs rise across the sector next year, by a positive 11.5%.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO said: “Our research clearly shows that while the global Travel & Tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, the Caribbean is recovering much faster than any other region.
“Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic stole almost a quarter of all Travel & Tourism jobs from the region but due to a significant increase in international and domestic spend, both jobs and GDP are on the rise.”
According to the research, the sector’s contribution to the region’s GDP and the rise in jobs could be more positive this year and next, if four vital measures are met by governments around the world.
These measures include allowing fully vaccinated travellers to move freely, irrespective of their origin or eventual destination and the implementation of digital solutions which enable all travellers to easily prove their COVID status, in turn speeding up the process at borders around the world.
The measures also include the recognition of all vaccines authorised by WHO and/or SRA, and the agreement from all relevant authorities that international travel is safe with enhanced health and safety protocols, as well as vaccine equity to ensure no region is left behind.
The future could be brighter for the Caribbean.
The research shows that if these five vital rules are followed before the end of 2021, the impact on the economy and jobs could be considerable.
According to the research, the sector’s contribution to the economy could rise 51.3% this year (nearly USD 13 billion) and a further year-on-year rise next year of 36.9% (nearly USD 14 billion).
This in turn could have a positive effect on employment with 15% increase in jobs this year, and a year-on-year increase next year of 18.6% to over 2.8 million, more than 75,000 more jobs than in 2019 when Travel & Tourism was at its peak.
A number of Travel & Tourism businesses in the Caribbean introduced new measures and enhanced health and safety protocols at the very beginning of the pandemic to reassure travellers — and the research suggests those measures are helping to drive travellers back to the region.
Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts said: “Confidence and trust are what drives visitor arrivals and it’s the key to keep our economies thriving in our region.”
He continues, “At Sandals, we credit our Caribbean-wide rebound largely to the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness that we introduced early, in partnership with the CDC, WHO and the local Ministries of Health in the countries we operate.
“These enhanced measures are based on a thorough assessment of all points of guest contact, resulting in the integration of advanced hygiene practices across eighteen key touchpoints – from airport arrival through to departure.”
Stewart concluded, “Our recently announced Sandals Vacation Assurance program is a continuation of this effort to build trust and boost confidence.”