Cooperation: The Key to Caribbean Tourism Rebound
THERE’S STILL A LONG WAY TO GO TO REACH THE MUCH ANTICIPATED INTER-CARIBBEAN AIRLIFT
BY: GUILLERMO GARCÍA DE BENITO PHOTOS: THE BARNACLE NEWS
Q & A
Vanessa Ledesma, Acting CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, stressed that the key to the successful recovery of the post-cooperation industry has been the cooperation between the private and public sectors, as well as between health and tourism authorities in the region. She said this in an exclusive interview with Caribbean News Digital during the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which is being held Oct. 3-5 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "In 2005 we created a unique relationship in the world with the Caribbean Health and Safety Agency and others, which was one of the first partnerships between health and tourism, so we had already worked on several programs to address health situations arising from diseases such as chikungunya, dengue and zika. No one was prepared for Covid, but we did have certain platforms and resources to deal with it better," she said. Meanwhile, collaboration in the area is also evident between the industry and the communities, something that was accelerated by the pandemic, according to Mrs. Ledesma, as part of the special relationship between the Caribbean and its nature and the commitment to protect it together with the most autochthonous cultural and social values. In this sense, he highlighted the case of St. Lucia, where the all-inclusive packages contemplate taking clients to eat at places outside the hotel, so that the people who work in those restaurants benefit, in what he defined as a multiplier effect. On the other hand, he referred to the fact that during the pandemic there were some initiatives that sought to sell the Caribbean as a single product. Although all destinations have their own idea of how to market and highlight their offer, there is a little more interest in this collaboration, and there has been a lot of talk about concepts such as multi-destination. In this regard, she said that there is still a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the long-awaited intra-caribbean connection, while analyzing possible applications of a dynamic tax whose rate depends on the amount of air traffic at certain times of the year to promote travel to and from the region. Regarding the development of the Caribbean Travel Marketplace after Hurricane Ian hit Puerto Rico, she commented that after an intense dissemination of accurate information on the effects on the south-southwest of the island and its capacity to receive the event, it was possible to dispel the fears derived from the comparison between this event and Fiona, which had a devastating effect. "We had not met for two years and we needed to be together again in one place. Although digital platforms allow us to connect a little more, there is nothing like the opportunity to be face to face with our colleagues, understand what other destinations are doing in terms of marketing and enjoy the opportunity for destinations to collaborate in that aspect as well," said the director. The event has brought together 130 companies from 25 Caribbean countries, 159 companies with 210 hotels, as well as 125 companies representing 23 markets that visit the Caribbean. KEY DATA ON CARIBBEAN TRAVEL REBOUND » The numbers certify the impressive recovery of the Caribbean tourism sector, one of the fastest in the world. One such figure is job creation in 2021, which was 311,000 jobs in the region, up 15.2% from 2020, with 13.4% of those jobs in the tourism sector, released Nicole Madden-greig, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association CHTA. » Most of our CHTA members report that they are back to 2019 figures, which was the best year before COVID, Madden-greig confirmed. » Countries such as Barbados reveal the importance of having left sanitary restrictions behind, as the country, once it had removed the limitations in September this year, again surpassed the number of tourist arrivals compared to 2019 figures. Currently only four countries in the Caribbean region maintain any restrictions on passengers entering the country. » There is a leadership of the premium class of aircraft in that recovery, which also shows the great claim of Caribbean tourism for the business sector. » A broad Caribbean tourism renaissance is visible since the COVID-19 pandemic, with many destinations in the region approaching or surpassing what had been their historical tourism highs in 2019, explained experts participating in the Caribbean Travel Marketplace. » The Caribbean and Latin America lead the summer outlook in terms of the return of leisure travel. Five destinations (Aruba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico and The Bahamas) are among the "most resilient" based on confirmed summer arrivals, commented Forwardkeys, CHTA'S data partner. » Airports Council International Latin America and the Caribbean (ACI-LAC) reported in late September that the region recorded 1.7% lower air traffic in August 2022 than the same period in 2019. Although the pre-pandemic figures have not yet been reached, this is the best performance of the region's airports in this return of passengers to air travel, details Travel Latam magazine. » Challenges for the region include improving connectivity, addressing rising airfares and combating the degradation of nature. Opportunities include more flexible visa possibilities, more support for the local market and greater public-private collaboration. » Tourism specialists in the region agree on the importance of creating a Caribbean product that brings together the best of everything that unites the countries of the region. The work of the private sector should be focused on vindicating the importance of human capital and bringing the benefits of the country to the people themselves, while the public sector should focus on recognizing the benefits of tourism for the entire country and working on those expansive benefits.