After two lean years, Caribbean tourism is recovering. As travel restrictions are lifted, there is widespread optimism for the upcoming summer and winter season.
Industry reports show that 2022 is off to a good start. The World Travel and Tourism Council, a body backed by major international travel companies, says the region is recovering faster than the rest of the world and expects Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Aruba to be among the top 20 top performing destinations. anywhere.
However, a deeper dive and conversations with industry professionals show that the picture is mixed, the structure of the Caribbean market is changing and new thinking may be needed to ensure sustainability.
The view is that the current positive picture may prove difficult to replicate next year, as post-pandemic traveler abundance wanes and current levels of excess disposable income and pent-up demand are tempered by an already near-certain decline in the region’s major tourism markets.
While arrival data prepared by the Aruba-based Tourism Analytics indicate that the overall average recovery rate for long-stay visitors from the Caribbean in calendar year 2021 was equivalent to 54.4% of the number of arrivals recorded in 2019, and its figures and analysis point to significant national variation.
Three Caribbean destinations saw extraordinary levels of visitor recovery last year. This was either because, as US destinations, they were largely exempt from United States public health protocols (Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands recorded 103% and 129% of arrivals recoveries in 2019, respectively). .), or in the case of the Dominican Republic, its 77.5% recovery may reflect pandemic-related entry requirements that were not particularly difficult.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dutch-speaking Caribbean, Jamaica, Antigua, the Bahamas and St. Lucia also showed higher rates of return to pre-COVID-19 arrivals.
Elsewhere, however, recovery in 2021 has been slow, with Barbados, for example, recovering just 20 percent from 2019, Cuba 8.3 percent, and the Cayman Islands just 3.0 percent. These trends continued into the first quarter of 2022.
What these wide differences point to are country-specific factors. These range from the complexity and longevity of entry protocols, infection rates and advice for travelers in major source markets, to Caribbean concerns about domestic vaccinations and infection rates. Just as importantly, the pace of recovery also reflected a sharp decline in travel from the US to Europe and Canada, with the US-facing markets of the Caribbean and Mexico benefiting the most.
Most Caribbean destinations are now looking to end 2022 in a much better place.
Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett says he expects to see 3.2 million arrivals this year (2019: 4.3 million) and a full recovery in 2024; Cuba, despite the loss of a significant Russian and Ukrainian market and…