Tourism leads region's recovery despite challenges
MADDEN-GREIG...despite the challenges, the industry remains bullish about the future of tourism in the Caribbean

Caribbean tourism continues to lead the region's economic recovery but faces formidable challenges, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has said.

Presenting the findings from its annual tourism industry performance and outlook survey on Wednesday, CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig reported that the pace of the regions' tourism recovery continues to be threatened by rising operating costs, labour shortages, increasing airfares, global competition, economic uncertainty, and pressures from some governments to increase taxes among other challenges.

"Despite the challenges, the industry remains bullish about the future of tourism in the Caribbean," she said, while also underscoring the importance of public-private sector collaboration to address challenges like stimulating greater intra-regional travel.

The Caribbean, which industry statistics have dubbed one of the fastest recovering tourism regions in 2022, reached 85 per cent and 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels across most of its countries. Last year the region welcomed over 28 million visitors with stakeholders already projecting overall arrivals to increase by 10-15 per cent this year.

Challenges concerning environmental degradation, such as climate change, sargassum overgrowth and improper waste management, continue to affect the region's tourism despite its strong recovery, CHTA's annual tourism industry performance and outlook survey has found.

"While we've turned the pandemic corner, we're not out of the woods yet. Many businesses are still climbing out of massive debts and facing global competitive pressures on price increases. Now is not the time to increase taxes as we are hearing from several countries, addressing our looming labour shortages, climate change and strengthening linkages between tourism and other areas of our economies are more critically important," Madden-Greig added.

From the survey conducted last month with just under 100 businesses, 77 per cent from the accommodations sector and the other 23 per cent from tourism-related sectors such as attractions, tour operators and restaurants, the respondents identified the top issues affecting their businesses. Some of which they said included airlift cost and availability, taxes and duties, labour shortages, crime and safety and poor infrastructure. These, even as the industry face other challenges concerning environmental degradation such as climate change, sargassum overgrowth and improper waste management.

"Another key concern of tourism stakeholders is insufficient destination marketing," Madden-Greig noted.

She said that as concerns remain about the lack of having a more strategic regional marketing approach, the CHTA working in partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will seek to examine the issue more closely as they try to develop meaningful solutions.

Despite the challenges highlighted, the CHTA head, however, asserted that her organisation remains "committed to supporting its members and working with governments and other stakeholders to address the issues facing the industry".

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