San Juan, Puerto Rico – Caribbean’s tourism industry is projected to grow by 2 per cent annually until 2030.
That compares unfavourably to 3.3 per cent growth worldwide, according to Carlos Vogeler, regional director for the Americas at the World Tourism Organisation.
Mr. Voegeler said that based on the organisation’s in-depth analysis, tourism made up 5 per cent of direct Gross Domestic Product globally and 9 per cent of indirect GDP. This represents 6 to 7 per cent of direct and indirect export.
In total, international tourism in 2011 saw 980 million arrivals, which translated into US$960 billion in receipts.
“However, I estimate that domestic tourism could be up to four or five times more than that,” he told delegates attending the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference.
France in front
France was top for tourism arrivals in 2011, with the United States second and China in third place. The US posted top receipts ahead of Spain and France. In fact, he said, 50 per cent of the world’s total receipts was in the top 10 destinations.
In terms of outbound expenditure, Germany topped the list ahead of the US and China.
“The Americas comprise 16 per cent of international tourism arrivals and 20 per cent of receipts … there was 4.2 per cent growth in 2011,” Mr. Vogeler said.
Also in his presentation he noted that South America had grown 10 per cent, but that the Caribbean had grown by 3.6 per cent in 2011, which was below the world average of more than 4 per cent. However, the Caribbean’s receipts at 5 per cent growth were above the average. The region comprises a 2 per cent share of world tourism.
Within the region, seven destinations comprised 74.4 per cent of all arrivals. Those destinations were Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Aruba and Cuba.
Key opportunities, he noted, were product innovation; air accessibility; strengthening the single destination brand; integrated tour policies and the facilitation of air travel; enhancing public-private partnerships and diversification of source markets.
Challenges to growing tourism included stalled economies, rising oil prices, increased taxation, record unemployment and geopolitical upheavals.
Tourist arrivals were expected to reach 1 billion worldwide in 2012, 1.4 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by 2030, Mr. Vogeler said.
He said Caribbean tourism was vulnerable to crises, yet resilient. However, it was important to develop crisis management systems. Employment was not predicted to recover to pre-crisis levels until 2015.
Also by 2015, he opined, emerging economies will receive more visitors and indeed these tourism sectors were growing at double the pace of the Caribbean.
Issues of sustainability, technology, more demanding consumers and security and travel facilitation needed to be addressed to sustain the Caribbean’s tourism industry, he said.
“Tourism can adapt to a changing marketplace, but this evolving marketplace requires changes in business models. The tourism industry needs to innovate and seek new ways of doing things to cater for an ever more demanding tourist,” said the expert.
However, Tourism Economics President Adam Sacks sounded a rather more buoyant note. He said the industry had experienced record years in 2010 and 2011 and therefore anticipated 3 per cent growth going forward.
His company’s data was based on historical experiences, which noted that despite challenges and world-changing events such as 9/11, record oil prices and recessions, tourism actually grew by an average of 2.5 per cent in the decade of 2000 to 2010.