Jamaica Observer-WTTC: LONDON, United Kingdom — The travel and tourism sector in the Caribbean is recovering at a faster rate than any other region in the world, with its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) expected to increase by just over 47 percent this year, compared to 30.7 percent globally, according to new research from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

The council, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector and conducts research on the economic impact of the industry in 185 countries, noted that the recovery globally has been hindered by a lack of international coordination, severe travel restrictions and slower vaccination rates.

“However, the Caribbean is now benefiting from more relaxed restrictions around the world and low infection rates which are, in turn, boosting international travel spend and aiding the region’s swift economic recovery,” the WTTC said this week.

The council said that the sector’s contribution to the global economy this year will amount to US$1.4 trillion  mainly driven by domestic spending  while the Caribbean an expect a year-on-year increase of nearly US$12 billion, driven by both international and domestic travel spend.

“However, while the Caribbean is recovering faster than other regions, this is still below its performance in 2019, a record year for the sector, where travel and tourism represented more than 14 percent of the region’s GDP, contributing more than US$58 billion to its economy,” the WTTC said.

The research also reveals that at the current rate of recovery, travel and tourism’s contribution to the Caribbean economy could see a further year-on-year increase of 28.7 percent in 2022, representing a boost of US$10 billion.

The data also reveal that at the current rate of recovery international visitor spend across the region could see a year-on-year increase of 61.7 percent in 2021, ahead of domestic spend which could climb 52.6 percent.

“Next year, international spend can continue to rise with a further year-on-year jump of 43.1 per cent, with domestic spending also increasing by 13.6 per cent,” the WTTC said.

The council noted that last year, when restrictions brought much of international travel to a grinding halt, 680,000 tourism jobs were lost across the Caribbean, equating to almost a quarter of all jobs in the sector.

“However, this year the research reveals an expected 12 per cent rise in jobs  compared to a meagre 0.7 percent globally  with a similar potential year-on-year jobs rise across the sector next year by a positive 11.5 percent,” the WTTC said.

“Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic stole almost a quarter of all travel and tourism jobs from the region, but due to a significant increase in international and domestic spend, both jobs and GDP are on the rise,” said WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson.

Reacting to the research findings, that the introduction of enhanced health and safety protocols at the very beginning of the pandemic reassured travellers and are now helping to drive travellers back to the region, new WTTC Executive Committee member Adam Stewart said “Confidence and trust are what drive visitor arrivals, and are the key to keep our economies thriving in our region.”

Stewart, the executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International, said his hotel group credits its Caribbean-wide rebound largely to the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness which it introduced early in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the local ministries of health in the countries where Sandals operates.

“These enhanced measures are based on a thorough assessment of all points of guest contact, resulting in the integration of advanced hygiene practices across 18 key touchpoints  from airport arrival through to departure,” said Stewart who is also executive chairman of the Jamaica Observer.

French island in a Caribbean sea

“Our recently announced Sandals Vacation Assurance programme is a continuation of this effort to build trust and boost confidence,” he added.

According to the WTTC, the tourism sector’s contribution to the region’s GDP and the rise in jobs could be more positive this year and next, if five vital measures are met by governments around the world.

These measures include allowing fully vaccinated travellers to move freely, irrespective of their origin or eventual destination; the implementation of digital solutions which enable all travellers to easily prove their COVID-19 status, in turn speeding up the process at borders around the world; recognition of all vaccines authorised by the WHO; agreement from all relevant authorities that international travel is safe with enhanced health and safety protocols; and vaccine equity to ensure no region is left behind.

“The research shows that if these five vital rules are followed before the end of 2021, the impact on the economy and jobs could be considerable,” the WTTC said, pointing out that the sector’s contribution to the economy could increase by 51.3 per cent this year (approximately US$13 billion), and a further year-on-year rise next year of 36.9 percent (nearly US$14 billion).

“This, in turn, could have a positive effect on employment with 15 percent increase in jobs this year and a year-on-year increase next year of 18.6 per cent to over 2.8 million, more than 75,000 jobs than in 2019 when travel and tourism was at its peak.