The World Travel & Tourism Council has praised the decision taken by Caricom to devote a full day during its regular meeting of Heads of Government in July to focus on travel and tourism. This is the first ever time that tourism has been given such high priority at governmental level in the Caribbean, despite the industry being one of the main contributors to economic wealth.
According to WTTC’s latest research, travel and tourism contributes 14.8% of total GDP in the Caribbean, 12.9% of total employment, approximately 2 million jobs and 18.2% of export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods.
Overall the TSA results reveal moderate growth for travel and tourism demand in the Caribbean in 2008, growing at a rate of 2.3%. Long-term forecasts point to a stable phase of growth between 2009 and 2018 averaging 3.2% per annum.
However, these forecasts are falling below the 2008 world average of 3%, which itself has decreased as a result of the global economic downturn, with a long-term forecasts over the next ten years reflecting an average annual growth rate of 4.4%.
Considering these forecasts, WTTC President Jean-Claude Baumgarten said, “The Caribbean undoubtedly depends heavily on the travel and tourism sector for economic wealth and as a job creator. Globally we are seeing a major slowdown in mature economies, the impact of which is being cushioned by the rapid growth from emerging markets. These new destinations are undertaking massive tourism-related investment programmes and regions such as the Caribbean must focus on its long-term development in order to compete and to fully realise and maintain its full economic potential.”
Regionally the Caribbean receives the highest contribution towards travel and tourism from government expenditure – 9.2% in 2008, compared to a global average of 3.8%. Expressing his support of Caricom’s recent decision to prioritise tourism, Baumgarten urged “Travel and tourism is vital to the Caribbean and it is crucial that decisions to drive this sector forward come from the highest levels of government. All the while maintaining private sector investment based on sound economic research.”