Caribbean “Upbeat” About Tourism in 2019

caribbean upbeat tourismA beach in southern Saint Lucia.

By Dana Niland
CJ Contributor

Caribbean tourism officials are “upbeat” about prospects for 2019, and expect another year of positive growth bolstered by increased airlift, improved sales, ongoing investments in hotel upgrades and refurbishments, and new properties coming on stream.

Speaking with reporters at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s 37th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace, which ended Thursday evening in Montego Bay, Frank Comito, CHTA’s Director General and CEO, shared the optimistic tourism forecast, including a second consecutive year of significant increases in new hires and capital improvements resulting from the stronger performance trend.

“We are seeing high levels of investments in upgrades of existing hotels over the past three years, and the growth in new room inventory contributes to modest increases in room rates as the region’s product continues to expand and improve,” Comito said. “This is a considerable shift from what we were seeing four years ago and is expected to continue this year.”

Comito shared the results of the fourth annual CHTA Industry Performance and Outlook Study, which indicates that 85 percent of the hotels surveyed expressed optimism about the year, citing a continuation of the positive performance many experienced in 2018.

Increased capital investments are paying dividends for 61 percent of hotels, while strong revenues are generating new hires by 47 percent of respondents.

Another 44 percent are maintaining existing employment levels.

Seventy-six percent of hoteliers have reported increased revenue with 29 percent registering significant growth.

Comito said a healthier hotel sector is contributing to growth in employment, higher tax revenues for governments, and helping more hotels to realize a net profit.

Eighty percent of responding hotels anticipate net profits as they finalize their 2018 books.

“A healthy hotel sector is paramount to economic growth,” he added. “While every sector of our tourism economy is important, specifically cruise, marinas, and vacation home rentals, it is the hotel sector which has the greatest multiplier effect on economies. They continue to have the greatest impact on employment generation, spin-off businesses, new airlift, and tax revenue. We are pleased to see performance moving in this positive direction.”

The tourism veteran said the CHTA survey will help the organization gain a better understanding of the state of the tourism economy, its outlook, and factors which could influence the sustained expansion of the region’s visitor industry.

The survey polled a representative sampling of hotels throughout the Caribbean looking at their 2018 performance and 2019 expectations.

It examined areas such as employment levels, revenue, profits, capital spending, room occupancy, and rates as a basis for assessing the state of the tourism economy.

The residual impacts of the 2017 hurricanes were still affecting several destinations, and Comito urged tourism officials to address any lingering unfavorable marketplace perceptions by making greater marketing investments.

“While we are definitely upbeat about the performance of tourism in the region, we cannot rest on our laurels this year,” Comito said. “As we enjoy a very strong winter season, the industry should anticipate and plan for external factors which could curb growth in 2019.”