The Economic Impact Report (EIR) from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has revealed the dramatic impact Covid-19 has had on the sector in the Caribbean, wiping out $34 billion from the local economy.
The annual report suggests the contribution to GDP from tourism in the region dropped a staggering 58 per cent, higher than the global average.
The total contribution to GDP fell from USD$58 billion (14 per cent) in 2019, to USD$25 billion (6.4 per cent), just 12 months later in 2020.
A year of damaging travel restrictions, which brought much of international travel to a grinding halt, resulted in the loss of 680,000 tourism jobs across the popular holiday region.
The number of those employed in the Caribbean tourism sector fell from nearly 2.76 million in 2019, to 2.08 million in 2020, a drop of almost a quarter.
The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by half, with international spend faring even worse, falling by 68 per cent, due to the strong reliance on international travel, with many of the islands massively impacted.
St Kitts and Nevis saw a steep decline of 73 per cent, while St Lucia was close behind with a decline of 72 per cent.
Virginia Messina, senior vice president, WTTC, said: “The loss of 680,000 tourism jobs across the Caribbean region has had a terrible socio-economic impact, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.
“WTTC believes that if restrictions on travel are relaxed before the busy summer season, alongside a clear plan to allow inbound visitors to return to the region once again, the 680,000 jobs lost across the Caribbean could return later this year.
“Another year of terrible losses can be avoided if governments support the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the Caribbean economy.”
According to WTTC partner, Forward Keys, most USA departures in 2021 are to the Caribbean and Mexico, which could bring a swift recovery to this hard-hit region.