This November, the region celebrates Caribbean Tourism Month even while grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. In a release on Monday on its website, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) said the pandemic’s impact on the sector has been immense; there was a 57% decline in arrivals during the first six months of 2020, with an estimated 50 to 60% fall in visitor spend and tens of thousands of jobs lost. Nonetheless, the Caribbean has shown resilience by the progress made towards reopening tourism. As of November 3, a total of 25 Caribbean countries have reopened their borders to commercial travel, whether fully or partially. Meanwhile, the remaining continue to prepare by putting health and safety measures in place ahead of welcoming visitors. As such, the theme for this year is “The Caribbean Awaits.”
“We hope and pray for recovery; it will be slow, but every step forward is a welcome one.”
Calling the Caribbean “the most tourism-dependent region in the world” isn’t hyperbole. In the Bahamas, for instance, tourism represents an astonishing 70% of national GDP. Although, Belize has also been compared as one of the most impacted in the region; tourism accounts for more than 40% of national GDP.
At the least, testing is a big theme. In order to travel to the Bahamas, any visitor over the age of 10 needs to submit negative test results from a coronavirus test taken with five days of arrival, plus apply for a health visa from the government. Depending on the length of your stay, the Bahamas will test you again while you’re there. Belize offers testing inside its airport health clinic for US$50, although those arriving with a negative test in 72 hours of travel is “fast tracked” through the airport. This month, American Airlines will offer preflight testing to more destinations in the Caribbean, including Belize.
Border closures and travel restrictions have drastically changed where Americans are traveling, with the majority heading south to the Caribbean. Travel insurance comparison site, Squaremouth, reveals which Caribbean countries have taken over the list of popular destinations following COVID-19. Squaremouth’s list of top destinations was historically ruled by European countries which have since closed their borders, leading to a significant shift in traveler behavior. Islands in the Caribbean now comprise half of the top 10 destinations of American travelers. While American cities are currently buying space heaters while parks shut down for the long winter ahead, the Caribbean reopens with their status as a year-round outdoor option.
The concept checks out: head down here for the beaches, jungles and waterfalls, where social distancing comes naturally. It’s an attractive pitch, and favorable rates from resorts will only make it more enticing. In the meantime, be assured that whatever your plans as travel reopens, the Caribbean awaits.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), is the region’s tourism development agency, with 24 Dutch, English, Spanish and French country members and a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination. Its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism – One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean. In a statement on Caribbean Tourism Month the CTO shares, “Caribbean countries have taken the required steps to protect our citizens and residents, conducted the required training to prepare our tourism and related frontline workers for the return of visitors and put the health protocols in place to reassure our potential visitors and residents that we take their health seriously. This has been the groundwork and now we seek to rebuild the sector [and reopen the Caribbean].”