In 2022, the Caribbean was among the fastest-recovering regions globally and would have reclaimed between 85.0% and 90.0% of total arrivals in 2019. Some individual destinations surpassed their 2019 levels with record-breaking performances, while others are approaching the benchmark levels of 2019, and are expected to equal or exceed these levels in 2023. Nevertheless, a few destinations will require a longer period to reach pre-pandemic levels. We have seen unprecedented levels of airlift into the region from our source markets and the aforementioned recovery has been very evident in both land based and cruise tourism. This speaks to the resilience of the sector and the positive perception of the region in our source markets, based on our hospitality, stability, connectivity and our perennial well-earned status as a region for wellness.
“The year 2022 and especially the second half of the year has been a very encouraging one for Caribbean tourism. While we are still seeing elements of the effect of the pandemic on international travel, here in the Caribbean, we have noted a much more consistent pattern of travel which is a good indicator of a return to normalcy and a path to 2019 levels.” said Mr. Neil Walters, CTO’s acting Secretary General.
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Of course, the gains we have recorded have not been achieved without challenge. Our ability to learn from and recover from the significant challenges of the 27 months up to June 2022 are a testament to the resilience of Caribbean tourism and Caribbean people in general. Many of those challenges continue today, compounding the latent effects of the pandemic and evolving into new challenges for the tourism sector and Caribbean economies in general. Thus far, we have been able to ride out the supply chain issues, the political unrest existing in some regions of the world and the economic unrest which seems to be forever looming in our key source markets. Of immediate concern is the lack of intra-regional connectivity especially in the Central, Southern and Eastern Caribbean. The effect of this is particularly acute in these sub-regions where several of our member countries depended on intra- regional travel in the pre-pandemic era as one of their key source markets.
Our aim in 2023 is to create mechanisms to ensure that the Caribbean remains in the top 5 of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world. To date, the majority of our efforts have been focused on traditional markets, resulting in the significant recovery outlined above. But we do recognize that even within and abounding our traditional source markets there are untapped markets which are ripe for growth including the non-traditional markets outside of the USA, UK and Europe.
The Caribbean tourism sector’s key assets – our people and diverse cultural and natural resources – remain critical to the development of regional tourism. Sufficient and sustainable funding including foreign direct investment are other critical factors. Market growth, development of the sector’s key assets and sustainable funding are examples of some of the actions needed for sustained recovery and rebuilding of Caribbean tourism. By focusing on the key pillars of the CTO’s work – research, product development including human resource development at all levels of the Caribbean and marketing – the aim is to ensure the CTO’s continued leadership in the development of regional tourism and to overcome some of the challenges outlined above.
In affirming this action, Hon. Kenneth Bryan, Chairman of the CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism and Minister of Tourism and Transport for the Cayman Islands noted, “The CTO is the region’s tourism development agency and in recognizing this, the CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism has started a process to reshape the organization reposition it to be more relevant in the post-pandemic era. In this way, the CTO can best lead the region in developing tourism into a more resilient and robust sector…firming its significant contribution to positive regional economic growth.”