Intensified efforts

Intensified efforts

It might sound like wishful thinking, but a Bloomberg story in today’s paper suggests there is no longer any low season in the Caribbean. According to a travel data firm quoted by Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), booked flights as of March 2023 for the upcoming summer were up 48% compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

Apparently this trend was sparked when Americans and Canadians could visit the region but not yet Europe due to COVID-19 restrictions from May 2022. Hoteliers also noted an increase in guests at the time.

This is an important development, as the seasonality of their dominant hospitality industries has always been a major drawback for most islands. In addition, it leads to annual temporary unemployment and hardly promotes social stability.

People often talk about economic diversification, but that can also take place within the tourism industry by doing more year-round business to spread the benefits. Another way is seeking and growing alternative source markets that may also not be tied to winter in the northern hemisphere.

For example, Curaçao greatly depends on the Netherlands in this regard, but is trying to change that and announced weekly Azul flights out of Brazil as well as an expansion of service by Copa Airlines from Panama City to six per week and soon daily.

St. Maarten is listed in the Top 10 of Caribbean destinations experiencing improved summer flight bookings compared to 2019 per April 5, be it in ninth place with a 22% hike. That does not seem so bad, but could also be better in terms of ranking.

Intensified efforts to attract new airlift and visitors from other regions will be needed to enhance the local economy’s resilience. Funds to do so are indispensable, because – ultimately – that’s usually what it takes to get quick results.

The Daily Herald

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