The extreme uncertainty surrounding the recovery of Caribbean tourism underscores the importance of fueling innovation and supporting transformations that align tourism destinations and products with global post-pandemic demand trends, according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) .

Most global tourism reports predict a period of two to four years for a full recovery to 2019 levels.

However, the Caribbean could either lead or delay the global recovery, depending on the specific circumstances in the main Caribbean countries of origin and in the Caribbean destinations themselves.

In “Imagining a Post-COVID Tourism Recovery: Regional Overview”, the most important drivers of tourism demand are analyzed in the short term, including the development of the pandemic and the introduction of COVID-19 vaccinations, the economic environment in the countries of origin and the division between companies in comparison on leisure tourism and flight capacities among others.

“In the long term, the Caribbean countries need to drive innovation and revitalize their tourism offerings,” said Olga Gómez, Tourism Lead Specialist at the IDB. “It is no longer enough to rely on the lure of beautiful beaches. Tourism destinations need to invest in improving their competitiveness, aligning their tourism products with broader local and global economic trends, and exploring new and traditional emerging market segments such as global nomadism or nature tourism. “

Even for the less tourism-intensive economies of Guyana and Suriname, where the economic contribution of the tourism sector is relatively small compared to regional and global averages, there is room for improvement in the sector’s contribution to growth and employment in the years to come.

The report is part of the Quarterly Bulletin series produced by the Business and Tourism Sector Team at IDB’s Caribbean Division.

While the economic challenges facing member countries – Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago – are analyzed, many of their conclusions are relevant to the entire Caribbean. The study contains more detailed economic overviews of the six IDB member countries.

The study presents global travel mood analyzes and tourism demand trends after the pandemic. Given the revealed preferences of travelers and the fact that most current tourism activities rely on the region’s attractive natural assets, environmental sustainability and adaptation to climate change are becoming more important than ever. These issues must therefore be prioritized in public and private sector policy and investment agendas, the study says.

The report also updated the IDB Tourism Dependency Index, which calculates the relative dependency of over 160 countries worldwide on tourism for economic output, employment and exports.

Of the 15 most tourism-dependent economies in the world, eight are in the Caribbean, led by Aruba (first in the world with a score of 80 out of 100 on the index), with the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica joining the list for the most tourism-dependent economies.

A breakdown of tourist arrivals in the three most tourism-dependent economies is now also available based on a database developed from various national sources.

Overall, 2020 meant a 76 percent drop in international arrivals for the Bahamas, 67 percent for Barbados and 69 percent for Jamaica. This is in line with the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s estimate of a 67 percent decrease for the entire Caribbean region.

“On the positive side, companies have adapted their business processes and governments have made progress in digitization in response to the pandemic,” the report said.

“This form of innovation could lead to increases in productivity that will continue into the post-pandemic period.”