The Caribbean in 2012

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What’s in store for the Caribbean in 2012? In our Year in Review, we looked at the big stories of 2011, from the continued influence of China to the growth of green energy in the region. To find out more about next year, Caribbean Journal talked to a range of experts, analysts and observers across the spectrum to find out what they thought might be the bigger trends in 2012 – from real estate in Barbados to the future for Haiti.

Tim Peck, Chairman, OBM International and CJ Contributor

It’s going to be an interesting year – unfortunately, obviously we’re still very much affected by the global economic situation. Certainly, some of the developers have been sitting on the sidelines, sitting on their money, waiting for something to happen in the world – so we’re seeing a little more potential activity in the marketplace, obviously that impacts the Caribbean. I think also the banks have been sitting back with some of the sort of trouble assets, really not wanting them to impact their books too much, and we’ll probably see them going up a bit on that. So I think we’ll begin to see a few properties come to market this year. But we have seen in the latter part of last year that the Caribbean is still a very popular destination, and even though it has some legacy properties that need upgrading and transformation, there is still a lot of interest in the Caribbean, and we’re seeing developers and funds looking for interesting opportunities to develop. Obviously in our industry, we’re hopeful there’s going to be some activity.

David Mullings, Entrepeneur, Author and Columnist for the Jamaica Observer

Cuba will become an attractive target for Caribbean companies as it opens up, especially food and beverage companies. At least one company outside of Jamaica will list on the Jamaica Junior stock exchange to raise funds, helping integrate the region more. Renewable energy will become a major focus for announcements in many countries, especially solar.

Simon Taylor, Director, BCQS International

In general, there has been a modest increase in tourism arrivals across the Caribbean region in 2011 and with the on-going stabilization of the North American and European economies this trend is expected to continue through 2012. These steady increases are expected to translate into uplifted occupancies and revenues for our hotels and resorts and the steady recovery of the losses of 2008/9. 2012 should see more projects successfully re-launched and re-financed, particularly those in proven markets with significant equity already invested. This trend has seen major developments, such as Baha Mar in Bahamas re-started with others such as Four Seasons Barbados and Ritz-Carlton, Turks and Caicos expected to follow suit in 2012.

Royann Dean, Principal, TMG*, Nassau

The Caribbean will move even closer to recognising the potential for human and national economic development through the development of a creative economy. The region’s early adopters will take advantage of international trade agreements and demonstrate tangible results. As a result, other CARICOM members may start to consider implementing location-based policies, gradually introducing sustainable strategies that can support traditional economic engines such as tourism.

Andrew Humphries, Caribbean Regional Vice President, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, General Manager Four Seasons Resort Nevis

Well, I certainly think that air access in the Caribbean will be the top issue. I think American and its Chapter 11 will bring continued uncertainty into the air travel supply into the first half of 2012, so I think that should be of major concern to everyone there. Overall, I think positive indicators in the region are that it is a little more welcoming of tourists in the arrival procedures at airports, and I think that is a very positive move. It’s recognizing that getting into countries needs to be a seamless and easy experience. It shouldn’t be a barrier, as it has been in the past. I think overall it’s going to be a difficult year, with certainly demand being patchy, and being very last-minute as well. I think the uncertainty for a lot of reasons in the US – financial, tax reasons, it being an election year, will be something that’s going to drive a lot of last-minute decision making. Overall, there’s renewed interest in the Caribbean in terms of development. Four Seasons have a number of projects they’re looking at that have come back on the radar, which are very interesting for us. In general, I think the signs are positive, but it’s going to be a year of needing nerves of steel.

Ilio Durandis, Founder, Haiti 2015, Columnist for the Haitian Times and CJ Contributor

For the region, It would be interesting to see how other popular touristic countries would position themselves vis-a-vis Haiti’s plan to build new hotel rooms and attract more foreign investors. It would be very telling to see the positions of the CARICOM countries during their annual conference, as far as more trade with Haiti is concerned. When it comes to Haiti, housing for the displaced will be major headline for the first half of the year. If a decent solution is not found for those living in tents, I believe it would lead to major demonstrations, and might eventually cause some internal instability. Another prediction for Haiti is to watch out the cost of basic goods (mostly food prices). Economists in developed countries are predicting those things to go up, and in Haiti price of food tends to be a major player in popular uprising. Other things to watch out for is the effectiveness or implementation of the amended constitution, creation of a permanent electoral council, parliamentary elections and the hurricane’s season. All of these have the potential to cause major setback for the government if they are not properly addressed or dealt with.

Richard Young, Managing Director, West Coast Villas Sotheby’s International Realty, Barbados

In Barbados, I think things will be on the up – in regards to unique and luxurious properties, and there’s seem to be a far number of wealthy clients looking for the right property at the right price. So we’re busy at the moment showing properties. The market has obviously quieted, but prices have remained stagnant or dropped , in some cases, but there haven’t been a panic drop in prices or crisis distress sales. Generally, prices have maintained or come down a little bit.