MIAMI, CMC – A senior official of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has sought to reassure investors that it is a great time to be in the regional tourism industry, which continues to be the major economic driver for the Caribbean.
Unprecedented growth mode
CHTA director general Frank Comito told delegates attending the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) that tourism is in an unprecedented growth mode with investments in new hotels and upgrades in existing properties contributing to more than one in every five new jobs being created globally.
500,000 news jobs by 2028
Comito, who is also the CHTA chief executive officer, said that at the current pace, the tourism sector is expected to contribute to the creation of over 500,000 new jobs in the Caribbean alone by 2028.
According to CHTA’s 2019 Industry Performance and Outlook Study, the profitability gap for Caribbean hotels is improving with four out of five hotels reporting a net profit in 2018, up from three out of four several years ago.
Comito said in addition to an improved global economy other factors which are stimulating the industry include growing destination investments in airport infrastructure, a steady supply of new room inventory, and increased investments by existing hotels in capital improvements.
Recovered well from 2017 hurricanes
The CHTA official said that the region had recovered well from the twin hurricanes that hit some Caribbean destinations with devastating consequences for the sector in 2017.
However, while recovery was quick and strong in many destinations, he lamented that the region has more than 80,000 vacant hotel rooms every night.
Need to boost bookings
Comito said there was a need to boost bookings, noting that filling just 10 per cent of the vacant rooms “would inject nearly two billion US dollars annually into the region.”
The CHTA official said year-to-date performance data from six of the region’s destinations recovering from the 2017 twin hurricanes points to a faster than anticipated turnaround, with most hotels upgraded and reopening and international air arrivals approaching pre-hurricane levels.
“This exceeds our expectations and speaks well to the industry’s resiliency,” he said, noting that overall, the Caribbean has experienced an exceptional 2019 thus far with air arrivals and hotel performances exceeding the global average.
To speed up recovery and to strengthen its resilience, the CHTA head said all industry stakeholders, public and private, need to work together “to protect and enhance investments through collaboration on public relations and marketing around the Caribbean brand.
“We’ve seen the results of collaboration, most recently last fall with the success of the ‘Rhythm Never Stops’ public relations, social and digital promotional campaign led by CHTA and the public sector-led Caribbean Tourism Organization.
“A handful of major companies and Caribbean destinations invested in promoting the region out of a down period. The entire region benefited. We really need to get to the point where all beneficiaries are helping to promote the region all the time. It makes us all stronger and quite frankly it’s unfair for a few to shoulder the burden when all benefit. We can do better. We shouldn’t wait for a crisis for people to come to the table,” Comito said.
Advocating investment for the long term, Comito emphasized the importance of taking a big picture approach to Caribbean investments.