MIAMI — Tourism in the Caribbean is exceeding 2018 expectations despite the fact that some hotels in six of the Caribbean’s 32 major destinations are still in rebuilding mode following last year’s hurricanes.
High consumer demand for a Caribbean travel experience and increased tourism investments in hotels and airport improvements bode well for the future of the Caribbean’s tourism sector, says Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
“A growing number of travellers understand that the Caribbean is a vast region comprising many diverse destinations all rich in natural beauty but each distinct in its history, music, culture, food and welcoming hospitality,” says Comito. “Just like a winter blizzard may affect the northeastern United States while people are sunbathing on Miami Beach, a weather incident in one part of the Caribbean does not affect the overwhelming majority of the Caribbean.”
The robust upturn in the tourism sector means many parts of the Caribbean are seeing corresponding growth in employment, visitor spending, government revenue, and public and private sector investments to upgrade and expand the tourism product, notes Comito.
“Capitalizing on these trends and getting the region to work together on marketing and addressing other matters which can cause tourism to be an even greater economic engine for the region is a challenge which the region’s public and private sector leaders must embrace.”
A CHTA study earlier this year revealed that 58% of hoteliers have a positive or extremely positive outlook for the industry’s future.
According to data recently collected by the World Travel and Tourism Council, hurricane-affected destinations anticipate annual tourism spending growth of 8.7% in 2019 through 2021.
“In all of our discussions with industry stakeholders from destinations such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Dominica and Anguilla, we fully expect them to be showcasing to the traveller a completely revamped, fresh new product,” said Comito. “We’re already beginning to see that in several of the destinations and, later this year, expect it to accelerate as more refurbished and rebuilt hotels come on stream.”
Bolstering the healthy growth and rapid recovery from the storms is the increased airlift coming into the region from North America and Europe, which Comito asserted is at a record pace. “An increase in arrivals and activity, as well as the amount of hotel investments points very positively to where the region is headed,” he told attendees at the Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) in Miami.
Over the past several months all the major carriers serving the region have announced plans for new and expanded service into the Caribbean. However, it was among regional carriers where Comito saw a significant rise. He pointed to InterCaribbean Airways as an example, which four years ago served a dozen locations in five destinations and currently covers 22 airports in 13 countries.
The CHTA chief reported on the completion of several airport expansions in recent years and cited more than a dozen other airports which are under construction or are in the planning stage.
CHTA also reported on a major expansion thrust by leading hotel brands and chains and the debut in the region of new independent boutique and luxury hotels as well as the growth of the sharing economy.
Comito said that The hurricanes “taught us that the Caribbean is viewed as one brand in the minds of the public and the consumer. The lesson learned is that we’ve got to work more closely together as a region, public and private sectors, to let the world know about the lifetime of experiences and destinations which our vast region offers.”
He added: “While we’ve been on a good growth curve in both the hotel and arrivals side of it in terms of the data, it doesn’t take much to swing positive numbers to negatives. We are working with our industry and public sector partners to build a new spirit of collaboration. The need for this became even more apparent in recent years as we’ve worked to counter the negative impacts, largely due to mistaken public perceptions of storms and other natural occurrences. We need to be diligent, to be ready to bounce back and respond as effectively as possible.”
These and other Caribbean travel and tourism issues will take center stage at CHTA’s fourth Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF), taking place at the Hyatt Regency Miami June 22 – 24. See chtachief.com.