Caribbean tourism recovery leads globeFriday, December 03, 2021
BY DURRANT PATE
THE Caribbean's tourism sector is leading other regions in the world in recoverying from the pandemic-induced slowdown, according to a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report.
According to data provided by the UN body, the Caribbean had the highest recovery rate of any of the regions, with arrivals up 55 per cent over 2020. International tourist arrivals rebounded during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said.
The UNWTO reports that the European Union Digital COVID-19 certificate helped to facilitate free movement within the European Union and in the process, aided tourism recovery efforts in European nations. The progress is, however, threatened by the emergence of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, which has led dozens of countries to reinstate restrictions on arrivals or to delay relaxation in COVID-19 travel and testing rules, resulting in widespread uncertainty for holiday season travellers worldwide.
This will start eroding some of the gains being made in the Caribbean in its recovery efforts, as many of its source markets have started to feel the negative effects with tighter travel restrictions. At the same time, the UNWTO has estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will likely cost the global tourism sector some US$2 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, which incidentally was the same amount that was lost in 2020.
With an accumulated loss of US$4 trillion over the past two years, this makes tourism one of the sectors hardest hit by the health crisis. Despite recent improvements, the report warned that demand for travel could be further affected by “uneven vaccination rates around the world and new COVID-19 strains, which had prompted new travel restrictions in some countries”.
However, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “Data for the third quarter of 2021 is encouraging. However, arrivals are still 76 per cent below pre-pandemic levels and results across the different global regions remain uneven.”
In light of the rising cases and the emergence of new variants, Pololikashvili emphasised, “We cannot let our guard down and need to continue our efforts to ensure equal access to vaccinations, coordinate travel procedures, make use of digital vaccination certificates to facilitate mobility, and continue to support the sector.”
The UN tourism body is calling the sector's recovery “fragile” and “slow”. Despite, the improvement seen in the third quarter of the year, the pace of recovery remains slow and uneven across world regions.
In some subregions, such as Southern and Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean, North and Central America, arrivals actually rose above 2020 levels in the first nine months of 2021.
However, arrivals in Asia and the Pacific were down by as much as 95 per cent when compared with 2019, as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel. Africa and the Middle East recorded 74 per cent and 81 per cent drops respectively in the third quarter compared to 2019.
Among the larger destinations, Croatia, Mexico and Turkey showed the strongest recovery in the period of July to September.