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 Irma and Maria, growth will slow to 1% to 2% through the end of the year, said Caribbean
Tourism Organization chairwoman Joy Jibrilu, who expects that growth rate to
continue into 2018.
"There are many challenges ahead," Jibrilu said at
CTO's State of the Industry Conference. "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."
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 UNWTO, Government of Jamaica, World Bank
Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and
Inclusive Growth, Nov. 27-29 in Montego Bay.
The plan will include strategies for coordinating technical
support, capacity building, communications and 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 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.
CTO's 2018 State of the Industry Conference will be held in
Correction: The CTO presented first-half stats for 2017, not 2016.