Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Diversify beyond US and UK, travel expert urges Caribbean

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2020 | 2:31 PMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

With the United States economy contracting and the United Kingdom also facing economic fallout from the ravages of COVID-19, in addition to uncertainty related to Brexit, travel-research experts are urging the Caribbean to consider diversifying beyond traditional markets.

In a presentation during the Tourism Recovery Forum staged by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) recently, head of travel research at Euromonitor International, Caroline Bremner, forecast a dire economic outlook for the region’s two major source markets, noting that the future of Caribbean tourism looks grim.

“We expect the US economy to drop at least eight per cent this year, potentially by 12 per cent, and, of course, that then leads to an increase in unemployment, which again sort of makes it very tough for people in terms of their budgets and their disposable income, and it really has a very negative impact on the potential to travel,” Bremner said.

According to her, it is the same in the UK ,with uncertainty clouding the Brexit talks.

“We have a scenario here for a disorderly no-deal, which, ultimately, is going to have a shock, and we can then play that through as to what that means in terms of outbound tourism,” she stated, cautioning that should the large COVID-19-induced peaks in unemployment continue as well, Caribbean tourism markets would suffer for years.

Bremner said that in the best-case scenario, it could take between three and five years for the US and UK economies to recover, depending on the outcome of a vaccine for the virus.

Revealing that there was a global 50 per cent of tourism receipts, Bremner explained that it means that 2020 equates to a kind of ground zero where the industry starts next year.

She is, however, optimistic that growth is possible for 2021 if a COVID-19 vaccine is delivered early in the year.

The Euromonitor top researcher suggested that the region turn its attention to who she tagged the ‘new world travellers’, which include the fastest-growing leisure intermediaries per capita – ­countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Peru, and Slovakia, whose citizens spend robustly with travel agencies and tour operators.

“Equally interesting, in terms of per capita spending, we have countries such as Finland, Denmark, the Nordics, ranking quite high. And equally ... we see some fast growth coming from Latin America and also Eastern Europe. So there are pockets of growth that will be worth exploring,” she said.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com