Delivering a captivating presentation at the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) in Miami this week, Nicola Madden-Greig, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), called on investors and tourism decision-makers to reap the benefits of partnership and collaboration by joining hospitality trade associations, which are key to the success of the tourism industry.
Set against the backdrop of an upbeat economic forecast, Madden-Greig highlighted the significant potential of Caribbean tourism. She cited the World Travel and Tourism Council’s latest Caribbean report, which predicts that by 2032, Caribbean tourism has the potential to generate around US$96.6 billion in revenue and create approximately 1.3 million new jobs, representing substantial growth compared to 2022 figures.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by the industry, she emphasized the importance of addressing key areas such as air connectivity, technological investments, crisis preparedness, environmental protection, collaboration, coordination, and effective partnerships between the industry and government stakeholders.
Contrary to initial expectations, the Caribbean has demonstrated remarkable resilience and is rebounding faster than anticipated. Madden-Greig shared data indicating that the Caribbean is one of the fastest-growing destinations globally. While international traffic remains down by 31 percent, Caribbean destinations are just under one percent of 2019 visitor figures, signaling a promising recovery and growth trajectory.
The respected Jamaican hotelier emphasized the private sector’s pivotal role in leading the Caribbean tourism industry’s recovery and growth, with CHTA and national hotel and tourism associations supporting investors and owners, and facilitating dialogue with governments, multilateral agencies, and other public sector bodies.
Underscoring the Caribbean’s resilience, growth potential, and the collaborative efforts required to ensure a sustainable and thriving tourism industry, she noted that the region is moving in the right direction. “The Caribbean is definitely past recovery and into growth. We are a very diverse and dynamic region. We are in demand. There is a lot of opportunity,” she noted, admitting that recovery and growth are uneven, with some destinations rebounding faster than others.
The CHTA leader pointed to segments such as health and wellness, sustainable tourism, and events as presenting new opportunities, and noted that effective tourism linkages would positively impact the broader economy. “Tourism is the driver of our Caribbean economies, so it’s important that we see that spend not just being in the hotel and attraction sector, but permeates throughout the entire economy going into agriculture, manufacturing, and the creative industries,” she said.
Madden-Greig also addressed the significant entry of major international brands into the Caribbean’s all-inclusive tourism segment, shedding light on consumer trends with data from CHTA/Mastercard. The data revealed that consumers in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, in particular, are actively seeking authentic experiences and contributing to the local economy. Their preferences lean towards supporting local shops, exploring local restaurants, enjoying local entertainment, and utilizing local transportation services. Notably, both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, being prominent all-inclusive destinations, have successfully collaborated with local national hotel associations and the broader private sector to curate and offer these enriching experiences to their valued guests.
She emphasized the pivotal strategic importance of linkages for any brand or investor aiming to establish a strong presence in the Caribbean. Recognizing the significance of these linkages, she highlighted how they contribute to the prosperity of the region’s nationals. By fostering these connections, locals are empowered to become exceptional hosts and hostesses, ultimately enhancing the authenticity of the experiences offered to visitors who choose to explore the Caribbean.
Her presentation showcased several Caribbean destinations experiencing double-digit growth, including CHTA Strategic Partner U.S. Virgin Islands as well as St. Maarten, Guadeloupe and Martinique. She highlighted Aruba’s remarkable progress in restoring seat capacity and registering a surge in tourism receipts and cruise visits.
The CHTA leader highlighted Latin America as a significant source of growth for the Caribbean, with Panama being a growing hub for countries like Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina contributing to increased visitation.
Looking ahead, Madden-Greig also presented data from STR’s pipeline report, which indicates over 340 projects slated for the region. The CHTA/ForwardKeys Caribbean outlook data presented also showed that the region is expected to register more than four percent growth over pre-pandemic visitor levels this spring, and experience greater than 10 percent growth this summer. Cruise visits are also projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels this year, with an estimated 30 to 33 million cruise visits anticipated.
Madden-Greig underscored the Caribbean’s vulnerability to climate change and emphasized the need for sustainable travel practices and stakeholder collaboration to address the region’s environmental challenges.