The Caribbean tourism sector is recuperating from the storms of 2017 and looking forward to 2018, no matter “how long it takes.”
Secretary-General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization, CTO, says he looks forward with “optimism and excitement” to the 2018 tourism season. Hugh Riley said in a New Year’s message released today that 2017 was a challenging year because of hurricanes Irma and Maria, “not only destroyed property but also took the lives of many of our citizens.”
He added though that the islands would recover from the storms and tourists to the Caribbean region will see “a product that is rebuilt stronger, better and even more attractive” than before.
“That’s the plan, however long it takes to deliver,” Riley added.
“Travellers coming to the countries that were impacted by the storms will now see various stages of the rebuild/recovery effort. Some are already fully up to speed, others, only partially so. Our affected islands respect the safety and security of guests and staff and are therefore being frank and open about their state of readiness,” wrote Riley.
Tourism is the main economic driver for most of the Caribbean, Riley said the CTO would continue to place “enormous emphasis on delivering value and a superb visitor experience”.
In his New Year’s message, the CTO leader thanked governments and businesses for their continued support to the region post-hurricanes.
“We want to thank the media that have, for the most part, painted a proper picture of our region that is clearly open for business. Through it all, we are also eternally grateful to our visitors and to the Caribbean Diaspora who stand shoulder to shoulder with our region in times of need,” he added.
He said the CTO will continue to focus on its principal tourist markets, the United States and Europe, but also hopes to increase the number of Canadian visitors to the region.
Riley added that the organization hopes to ease intra-Caribbean travel for visitors.
Despite the massive damage caused by the hurricanes, a recent CTO study found that the Caribbean welcomed 800,000 more tourists in the first half of 2017 a 5.2 percent increase on the number the region welcomed in 2016.
Tourism is the largest industry in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean.
The CTO leader announced that 2018 is the Year of Rejuvenation.
“With wellness and rejuvenation being important aspects of the Caribbean tourism product, we are encouraging our member countries and private sector partners to plan and organize events and activities around that theme,” Riley said.