As told by Mrs Nicola Madden-Greig this week in The Bahamas, the story of the resurgence of tourism in the Caribbean after the ruthless two-year mauling it took from the novel coronavirus pandemic is indeed reassuring.
According to Tuesday's edition of this newspaper, Mrs Madden-Greig, the president of the umbrella Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA), made a rousing presentation to more than 130 travel advisors on the importance of tourism to the region's 14.8 million people.
She seemed to have convinced the travel advisors — formerly travel agents — from North America and Latin America that the recovery is real. It's the right group to be convinced because they are on the front lines of the travel industry.
The CHTA president, speaking at the first Caribbean Showcase staged in the region by the powerful American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, presented a hopeful picture of the return of tourism. Using 2019, a record year for tourism, she had figures to show that the industry was well on track to achieve 2019 successes and then "blow past that" as the growth trajectory forges ahead.
Citing the World Travel and Tourism Council's 2022 Caribbean Tourism Economic Impact Report, Mrs Madden-Greig said growth projections over the next decade, based on baseline scenario, forecast an average annual rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.5 per cent, which is more than double the overall economic growth of 2.4 per cent. Travel and tourism jobs are forecast to grow by an average rate of 3.3 per cent annually, creating more than 916,000 new jobs by 2032, with the potential to be significantly higher — creating 1.34 million new jobs, or an average rate of 4.5 per cent annually during the period. Revenue projections are for an average annual rate of 6.7 per cent to reach US$96.6 billion in 2032, up from US$50.5 billion in 2022.
What gave Mrs Madden-Greig's presentation credibility is that she did not hide her head in the sand about how such glowing projections would be realised. That would have been fatal because she was talking to people who live in the field and know absurdity when they see or hear it. She said it would be critical to enhance air connectivity (more flights) by lowering the cost and eliminating restrictive travel regulation which some islands still have in place; strengthen intra-regional collaboration through local and international bodies; and invest in digital and physical infrastructure to better position the region to compete in today's changing marketplace.
Importantly, she stressed, there is need to develop the human capital and skills available to the industry; diversify product offerings and source markets; increase preparedness for future crises and enhance the region's sustainability.
It must have been heartening for the travel advisors to hear from her that the CHTA was working with its partners and national hotel associations to — while maintaining adequate protocols for health and safety — seek removal of pesky travel restrictions that are still in a minority of countries. "We have proven that the Caribbean is safe, can handle the demand, and can provide the most wonderful vacation experience," Mrs Madden-Greig assured. She is indeed a worthy representative of our region.