Many Caribbean islands were severely hit by several hurricanes this season, but little more than a month after two of the most intense, tourism-dependent areas, can not let this sector rest on its laurels and abandon it.
This is stated in an interview with Efe the tourism expert and member of the Canadian Institute of Tourism, Jennifer Hendry, who warns that just over a dozen of those affected islands “simply” can not remain in abandonment after the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
That especially after last year Caribbean tourism suffered a loss of 4.7 percent in its annual profits, according to figures released by the latest edition of Trends in Hotel Industry in the region.
According to Scott Smith, director of the consulting firm CBRE, two of the main causes were last year the alarm caused by the Zika virus and the British decision to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, which caused a loss of purchasing power of the pound sterling and, therefore, a reduction of British visitors.
“Fortunately, the fear of the Zika virus has dissipated,” and it is expected that “the Caribbean tourism sector will now turn its attention to the United States where the dollar is relatively strong and purchasing power is high,” he added.
Now, it adds the fact that, according to Hendry, hurricanes created a climate of uncertainty with respect to the region.
“There is a lack of information and contradictory data on recovery efforts on some of the islands. Many people, especially in Canada and the United States, who are planning to travel to the Caribbean do not know where and do not know the conditions in the area,” he added.
Several islands managed to escape the destruction of Irma and Maria, but others were hard hit like Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica and San Martin.
Despite uncertainty, Hendry said his Canadian compatriots’ travel to the Caribbean is expected to continue growing on average by 2.2 percent through 2021, in what he called “last minute tourism.”
“It is that those who had planned to travel to Cuba or Dominica before the hurricanes, probably choose another destination of sand and beach” in the region, Efe told.
Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) secretary-general Hugh Riley was pessimistic and stressed that the road to recovery for many hurricane-hit islands will be “long and exhausting”.
“For some it will take time until normality is established and until they are in a position to receive the large number of tourists who were accustomed to receiving even the cyclones,” Riley told Efe after highlighting the resistance and the push of the Caribbean.
Riley said that these characteristics were exposed in Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, where, despite collapsed buildings and broken lives, “Irma and Maria could not break the spirit of who shed blood, sweat and tears to recover. ”
He also stressed in a statement to Efe that Caribbean tourism officials as well as hoteliers “must learn from what happened a month ago and take lessons on how to build a better and stronger future.”
“We can accept that any of our countries can be shot down at any time but we must learn to fight through the pain and get back on our feet,” he added.
“It is the opportunity to form a strong Caribbean alliance and create sources of income and never again see us dragging ourselves for funding,” he said.
Riley said the hurricanes also underscored the economic importance of tourism, “something that was taken for granted before, for debt reduction, international exchange, the creation of lasting alliances and the strengthening of the Caribbean islands.”
The secretary general of the CTO stressed the need to “reaffirm the Caribbean brand” among the tourism community and show the tourist that “the best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the region.”
Finally, CTO President Joy Jibrilu, also director of tourism in the Bahamas, told Efe that one of the organization’s main challenges is to study how to help and encourage people on hurricane-affected islands.
In this regard, he said that being sensitive to CTO members affected by storms also helps them see how to tell the world that most of the Caribbean remains “open for vacation.”