Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Tourism sector on the upswing – CHTA official

Published:Wednesday | June 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Frank Comito

A senior official of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says high consumer demand for a Caribbean travel experience and increased tourism investments in hotels and airport improvements are laying the groundwork for the future of the regional tourism sector.

Caribbean tourism officials estimate that the sector will exceed 2018 expectations despite the fact that some hotels in six of the Caribbean's 32 major destinations are still undergoing renovations following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

"A growing number of travellers are understanding that the Caribbean is a vast region comprising many diverse destinations all rich in natural beauty but each distinct in its history, music, culture, food and welcoming hospitality," said CHTA Director General Frank Comito.

"Just like a winter blizzard may affect the north-eastern United States while people are sunbathing on Miami Beach, a weather incident in one part of the Caribbean does not affect the overwhelming majority of the Caribbean," said Comito, who is also CHTA chief executive officer.

He said that as a result of the robust upturn in the tourism sector, many parts of the region are recording corresponding growth in employment, visitor spending, government revenue, and public and private sector investments to upgrade and expand the tourism product.

"Capitalising on these trends and getting the region to work together on marketing and addressing other matters which can cause tourism to be an even greater economic engine for the region is a challenge which the region's public and private sector leaders must embrace," Comito said.

He echoed a challenge by Frank Rainieri, the noted developer of the Punta Cana region in the Dominican Republic, who recently urged stakeholders to work together on common matters which impact the entire Caribbean region.

A CHTA study earlier this year revealed that 58 per cent of hoteliers have a positive or extremely positive outlook for the industry's future. According to data recently collected by the World Travel and Tourism Council, hurricane-affected destinations themselves anti-cipate annual tourism spending growth of 8.7 per cent in 2019 through 2021.

"In all of our discussions with industry stakeholders from destinations such as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Dominica and Anguilla, we fully expect them to be showcasing to the traveller a completely revamped, fresh new product.

"We're already beginning to see that in several of the destinations and, later this year, expect it to accelerate as more refurbished and rebuilt hotels come on stream," Comito said.

CMC