On Wednesday morning, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association CEO and Director General Frank Comito and other members of the association at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, held at Baha Mar in the Bahamas, said that the outlook for the tourism industry in the region has a positive outlook for 2020.
Some positive highlights include record average daily rates in 2019 (up 5.6 percent); room inventory increased by 2.8 percent (with occupancy down 2.7 percent — but due to the increase in rooms, there was actually an increase in stays); an increase of 4.4 percent in air arrivals; and a 4 percent increase in overall arrivals (for just the first nine months of 2019).
Even better: Tourism performance and hotel inventory is near pre-2017 hurricane levels for most of the six major destinations affected. And, one a more recent note, the Bahamas is experiencing healthy bounce back following Hurricane Dorian in September. Comito brought up Grenada as a prime example of a destination that bounced back strong following a natural disaster. Following Hurricane Ivan in 2007, hoteliers used the opportunity to upgrade their product and make the destination more “exciting,” and they’ve since seen their numbers continue to go up, he said.
As for what this means to the hotels and locals, tourism continues to stimulate job growth, Comito noted — up nearly 49 percent from 2019 compared to 2018. Sales and revenue and capital spending are all up year-over-year, with profits about the same (79 percent of reporting properties expect a net profit, while 21 percent expect a loss).
Looking to 2020, 20 percent of respondents from the CHTA Industry Performance and Outlook Study have an “extremely positive” outlook; another 28 percent are “positive.” While 35 and 15 percent respectively answered “fair” and “negative,” none answered, “extremely negative.” This, obviously, shows there can be room for improvement. On that same note, 15 percent said the strength of the tourism economy in the Caribbean today is “extremely strong.” Thirty-four percent responded with “strong,” 41 percent responded with “moderate” and 10 percent said “weak.” None said, “extremely weak.”
Regarding the Caribbean Travel Marketplace, there are some new features this year, which include an educational forum, a new design concept for the trade show floor and a travel agent pilot program. The first comprised a workshop with representatives of the private and public sectors to learn from one another. The new design was intended to make the trade show look more like an actual marketplace (it is in the name, after all), so now it has a much livelier, more relaxed feel to it. As for the travel agent pilot, 12 agents from across the U.S. varying in niches and specialties were invited to the conference. The CHTA, as soon as next year, is looking to expand the program beyond the dozen agents from and opening up the invites worldwide.