COVID-19’s Wrecking Ball Magnitude On Caribbean Tourism Revealed

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The COVID-19 pandemic has lead to empty hotels, empty beaches and a 65.5 percent drop off on year to date travel according to the CTO. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
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By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mon. Mar. 15, 2021: The magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Caribbean region’s tourism sector has been put into numbers by the Caribbean Tourism Organization and unveiled today.

According to the CTO, the pandemic led to a decline of 21 million tourists to the region in 2020 compared to 2019, a massive percentage drop of 65.5 percent.

Just over 11 million visitors ventured to the Caribbean last year, the CTO said, compared to the record 32.0 million tourist visits in 2019.

The impact was particularly evident during the period of April to about mid -June when there was literally no activity in some of destinations, according to the organization.

This was characterized by empty hotels and restaurants, deserted attractions, shut borders, laid-off workers, grounded airlines and crippled cruise lines. Some destinations still remain closed to visitors, with limited airlift primarily for repatriation of locals and cargo and cruise lines plying Caribbean routes remain non-operational due to a strict ban imposed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC).

The second quarter was the worst-performing with arrivals down by 97.3 percent. But tourists began visiting again in June as the sector began to reopen.  Still, the fall-off in stayover arrivals continued through to September – when a gradual reversal began – and continued right up to December.

The CTO also estimates that across the region visitor expenditure declined by 60 to 80 percent, in line with the decline in stayover and cruise arrivals.

Preliminary data indicates that the average length of stay for 2020 remained at roughly seven nights, the same as in in 2019.

THIS YEAR

The Caribbean’s performance in 2021, CTO officials say, will depend largely on the success of the authorities in the marketplace and the region in combatting, containing and controlling the virus and the vaccine roll-out taking place in North America, Europe and the Caribbean.

The initial forecast is for a 20 per cent rise in arrivals in 2021, with a similar increase in visitor expenditure, when compared to 2020.