Having faced a number of crises over the years, those in tourism across the Caribbean are hoping a long experience in resilience could help the region see out the coronavirus devastation.
“The world will need the Caribbean to help heal. This will be a place to come and regenerate.”
So says Frank Comito, chief executive and director general of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), talking to TTG about the challenges facing the region during the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s not alone in thinking the region’s beaches, nature and way of life will be appreciated by many looking to recuperate after the shock of global lockdown.
Carol Hay, chief executive of McKenzie Gayle – which represents the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) UK Chapter – agrees the islands’ appeal will be strong for those looking to travel once the lockdown is lifted.
“Tourism generally will play a big role in the recovery of people – the next holiday anyone takes is going to be such an important one,” Hay said. “So, we will be saying ‘come to the Caribbean, get fit, boost your immune system, be healthy, hike, explore, eat great fresh local fruits and vegetables’ – that will be more important than ever.”
But Comito also urged everyone not to be complacent about the effort that will be required to keep the region front of mind and ready to deal with the bounceback – and the importance of stimulating it.
“Yes, we are resilient and always have been, and we have even better product now than ever, more hotel rooms and even better infrastructure, after so much rebuilding post hurricanes,” he said. “But tourism is so pervasive in our region – six of the 10 countries globally that have the highest percentage of employees in tourism are in the Caribbean, so we will have to get it back as soon as possible.
“When we come out of this, it will be rapid and we will see a spike of movement, and there will be a lot of competition going after that, so everyone needs to be ready,” he added. “We need a dual mindset, one of dealing with what’s happening right now, and one for the future. The approach has to be collaborative and pervasive, with private and public sector working together.”