by Lisa A. Grimaldi | April 20, 2018

The 2017 hurricane season - which included megastorms Irma and Maria - had a devastating effect on Caribbean tourism, resulting in a loss of 826,000 tourists and an estimated US$741 million in spending, according to a World Travel & Tourism Council study. And this occurred even though two-thirds of the region avoided any damage. The report did not tally the number of visitors to the Caribbean last year but did note that in 2016, the region drew some 46.7 million international visitors who spent an estimated US$31.4 billion.

The study was conducted for the WTTC by Tourism Economics, based on insights from sources including the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Among other findings:

  • The decrease in visitors to the islands ultimately cost some 11,000 jobs.
  • Recovery could take up to four years, leading to a potential loss of US$3 billion.
  • While the islands that were directly hit were affected the most, other islands that were not in the path of the storms also suffered, due to the public misconception that the entire Caribbean was hit.
  • The report warned that natural disasters will continue to hit the Caribbean because of climate change, stating that "It is critical that governments and destination management organizations develop strategies to minimize the long-term impact of natural disasters and encourage visitor spending to return to pre-hurricane levels of growth."
  • Among possible ways to speed up recovery as cited in the report were easing entry and work-permit restrictions for specialized services aiding in the effort; increasing duty-free exemptions on popular goods, and reducing departure taxes and resort fees to stimulate tourism and traveler spending.   

 

A summary can be viewed here.