Caribbean tourism performance positive despite pandemic — CHTA
From left: Federico Moreno-Nickerson of Apple Leisure Group, Vanessa Ledesma and Alexis Capelladesof CHTA, and Bill Clegg of Best Western Hotel Group at the CHRIS meeting held recently in Miami

Despite the catastrophic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on global industries, the performance of tourism in the Caribbean has continued to record successes as regional destinations remain high on the list of travellers.

The sector, though significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic following the loss of millions of jobs worldwide and the contraction of global gross domestic product (GDP), continues to weather the challenges harbouring positive hope for its full recovery.

Speaking at the recently concluded Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS), acting chief executive officer (CEO) and director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Vanessa Ledesma said that regional tourism continues to be resilient amid current difficulties.

Highlighting statistics from data partner Forwardkey, Ledesma said that the Caribbean outperformed its global counterparts in international arrivals in July 2021 relative to the same period last year experiencing an overall decline of 13.2 per cent when compared to other regions, which suffered losses ranging from 21 per cent (Central America) to 85.5 per cent (Asia Pacific).

“The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were the top performing Caribbean destinations, with arrivals up by 106.3 per cent and 39.7 per cent, respectively,” Ledesma indicated.

She said that while the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus continue to cast a shadow on the industry and as data point to slight declines in the number of confirmed tickets to the region, some destinations, including Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba and The Bahamas, are experiencing levels ahead of those recorded prior to the pandemic. She also cited positive trends for average daily rates for hotel stays in the Caribbean. Traffic data released by Pacific Airport Group which operates the two largest airports in Jamaica also showed slight increases in the figures since summer, though nowhere near pre-COVID levels.

“Among Caribbean destinations with the highest revenue per available room (RevPAR) for July 2021 year-to-date, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were the only two destinations showing an increase for 2021 compared to the same period in 2019; despite a not surprising reduction of RevPAR for the Caribbean overall which fell significantly from 2019 to 2021.”

According to travel analytics firm STR, up to the month of July destinations with the highest occupancy rates in the region were Aruba (82.6 per cent), Puerto Rico (81.2 per cent), Turks & Caicos (79.6 per cent), Cancun (74.4 per cent) and Curaçao (71.7 per cent).

Ledesma also credited the region for its partnership with critical organisations such as Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) which has been instrumental in promoting effective health safety prevention and mitigation efforts.

“Moving forward, the Caribbean's recovery strategies and actions will continue to include: advancing health safety initiatives, building trade and traveller confidence, advancing better tour operator policies, advancing regional collaboration to support tourism's recovery, making the case for travel with key international markets, and advocating for jurisdictional and regional policies supporting recovery,” the CHTA executive said.

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