ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada — Prior to hurricanes Irma and Maria, Caribbean visitation was up 5.2% in the first half of 2017.
But because of damage wrought by the storms, growth will slow to between 1% and 2% through the end of the year, said Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) chairwoman Joy Jibrilu, who expects that growth rate to continue into 2018.
"There are many challenges ahead," Jibrilu said at the CTO's State of the Industry Conference here. "We want our message to get out that much of the Caribbean is open for business now and will continue to be, but we must continue to support our neighbors who have been so affected."
Jibrilu lamented that some travelers will avoid the Caribbean altogether because of hurricane damage.
"When the crisis is over, when the story ends, when the issues change, the world will move on, but there will still be a need to keep reminding the world that the distance between Barbados and Belize is more than six times as great as between Toronto and Montreal, that New York to Chicago is only half as far as the Bahamas to Grenada and that 70% of the large Caribbean region is open, operating at full speed and wanting to welcome visitors," she said.
The newly formed Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team, chaired by Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett, plans to submit a blueprint for tourism recovery at the U.N. World Tourism Organization, Government of Jamaica, World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth, Nov. 27 to 29 in Montego Bay.
The plan will include strategies for coordinating technical support, capacity building, communications, private-public sector engagement and arrangements regarding the restoration of tourism in the Caribbean.
Karolin Troubetzkoy, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, said that the CHTA's annual Marketplace, slated for San Juan in early January, is still on the calendar.
"Puerto Rico wants to be ready for us. If so, we will be ready for Puerto Rico," she said.