After a gross turndown in the number of visitors following the terror attacks of 2001, the Caribbean is finally seeing a slow increase in its tourism sector. Individuals dramatically altered their travel habits after 9/11, many opting not to use airlines. The Caribbean was left deserted, with empty beaches and little tourist traffic.
The trend appears to be shifting now, with one Caribbean destination, the Dominican Republic, reporting an increase of 33.5% in the number of visitors compared to 2001. There were similar reports from other destinations, yet still the amount of visitors remains lower then pre-September 11 figures.
Jean Holder, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization
said, “There was certainly a recovery of business in the summer months and this was increasing in the winter.” The Caribbean has witnessed an increase in visitors over the last year, “anytime our numbers rise we have to applaud that and build upon it.”
With a war in Iraq still on the horizon and unrest in Venezuela regarding oil, things aren’t as good as they could be in the Caribbean. “We are getting back to normal levels pre 9/11. We are still not there, but things are picking up,” said Executive Director of Puerto Rico’s tourism board, Jose Suarez. “We can’t control what happens in Iraq but we shall be proactive to keep the effect on tourism to a minimum.”
In 2002 Puerto Rico saw an estimated 73.3 percent of its hotel rooms filled, in 2000 that figure was 75 percent. Even though the number of tourists is increasing, revenue is still down. Due to discounting on hotel rooms, to lure people to the region, the Caribbean’s tourism economics have been negatively affected. This could have a knock on effect in areas such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic who rely on tourism as their main form of income.
A spokesperson from the Dominican Republic’s Central Bank hoped that a war with Iraq would not materialise, “Hopefully the world will remain peaceful and we will be able to live.” The Dominican Republic lost an estimated US$400 million due to the decline in tourism. With the oil issues in Venezuela other Caribbean destinations, including Jamaica, are being forced to purchase oil at higher prices.