The Caribbean's tourism sector lost close to US $700 million in revenue and saw almost one million fewer visitors in 2017 due to the devastating impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria. An industry report released by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council revealed the disastrous effect the storms had on one of the region's most critical industries when compared to previous years Tuesday.
“The hurricane season resulted in an estimated (loss) in 2017 of 826,100 visitors to the Caribbean, compared to pre-hurricane forecasts," the Council's report noted. Those tourists and the missed revenue the Council stated could have sustained more than 11,000 jobs within the region.
Tourism is a crucial sector for Caribbean countries. The industry, according to the report, is responsible for 15.2 percent of the region's gross domestic product. It's also responsible for 14 percent of the overall all jobs in the islands.
Worldwide, tourism accounts for, on average, 10.4 of the total gross domestic product, according to the Council.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria left a trail of destruction in several Caribbean countries in August and September 2017.
Barbuda, St Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Barts, Anguilla, Cuba, Dominica and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were all affected by the tropical storms. However, Barbuda, Dominica, and Puerto Rico sustained the most damage and had yet to recover fully.
However, the drop in tourism in the region affected islands that were not damaged by the hurricanes.
The report pointed out that there is "a misconception on the part of the public that the entire Caribbean was hit by storms... (but) more than two-thirds of the destinations in the Caribbean were not physically affected."
The recovery of the tourism sector to pre-hurricane levels could take up to four years, the Council's report warned.
The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1 and stretches through November 30.