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REGIONS AMERICAS


THERE WILL LIKELY BEAREASSESSMENT IN ALOT OFCOUNTRIES OF THEIR TOURISM PRODUCTANDWHOTHEY’RE TARGETING


Caribbean tourism recalibrates


CORONAVIRUS HAS SLASHED TOURIST ARRIVALS, FORCING A RETHINK OF THE CARIBBEAN’S MAIN INDUSTRY. ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


A


s the world’s most tourism- dependent region, the Caribbean has been battered


by the coronavirus shock to inter- national travel. In the worst case scenario, visitor


numbers to the region in 2020 could fall by as much as 71% compared with 2019, leading to the loss of 2 mil- lion jobs and $44bn of regional gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Travel and Tourism


Council (WTTC). Following the national lockdowns and bor-


der closures implemented in March, Caribbean countrieshave beenkeento reopentheir borders to reinvigorate a sector thatwill be key to driving the region’s economic recovery post Covid-19. However, local businesses and governments


face an uphill struggle. After recovering from a destructive hurricane season in 2017, countries nowface the dual threat of containing coronavi- rus together with the annual hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 – and is expected to be “above-normal” by NOAA’s Climate PredictionCenter.


Covid-19 caution The first eastern Caribbean islands began gin- gerly reopening their borders in June, with their neighbours following suit in July. However, even with health protocols in place, the challenges of lifting travel restrictions in a pandemic-hit world have been laid bare. In the Bahamas, where tourism contrib-


uted 43.3% to GDP in 2019 according to the WTTC, there was a surge in coronavirus cases less than three weeks after reopening to inter- national tourists. The government then closed its borders to


tourists from the US – which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world –


48


before reopening them with a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Puerto Rico also rolled back its reopening in mid-July after a surge in cases. “There is a reallymixed feelingamongst peo-


ple. They need to work but are concerned about being exposed, particularly to American tour- ists,” saysRalph Birkhoff,anAnguilla-basedbusi- nessmanandeconomicdevelopmentconsultant at the Inter-American Development Bank. In the face of outbreak risks,many countries


have mandated inbound travellers to provide a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival, and have set up travel corridors fromairports where tourists can safely self-isolate away from residents. Regional efforts throughtheCovid-19 Caribbean tourism task force have also provided safety guidelines and training for tourismworkers. Yet concerns persist in the region over the


current viability of safe tourism. The cruise industry, which brought more than 11 million tourists to the Caribbean in 2018, is currently suspended in the US and some observers now question its long-term viability. “People are recognising that the cruise ships


are not the healthiestmodelandthere will likely be a reassessment in a lot of countries of their tourism product and who they’re targeting,” says Marla Dukharan, an economist based in Barbados who has analysed the pandemic’s eco- nomic effects on Caribbeantourism.


Different approach Lyndell Danzie-Black, a Caribbean consultant based in Guyana, says many hotels have shifted their focus in the face of dwindling interna- tional arrivals. “Hotels are doing weekend away bundles targeting domestic tourists, while other hotels are focusing on food delivery,” she explains. NeilWaters, acting secretary general of the Caribbean tourism organisation, says the cri-


www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2020


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