The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has released new figures illustrating the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector in the region over the past year.
The impact was particularly acute from April to mid-June last year when there was literally “no activity” in some destinations, the trade body said.
Data received from member countries reveals that tourist arrivals to the region in 2020 fell to just over 11 million, a decline of 65 per cent when compared to the record 32 million tourist visits in 2019.
This was, however, better than the world average of a 74 per cent decline during the same period, as reported by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
This lower rate of decline in the region can be attributed to two key factors: a significant portion of the Caribbean’s winter season (January to mid-March) saw average levels of tourist arrivals when compared to 2019, and the fact that the main (summer) season in other regions coincided with the period where there was very limited international travel.
The slowdown was characterised by empty hotels and restaurants, deserted attractions, shut borders, laid-off workers, grounded airlines and crippled cruise lines.
While the CTO said there has been some fluctuations in the levels of visitors for the remaining months of the 2020, the influx of visitors has not reached levels even closely comparable to those being experienced prior to March last year.
A period of virtually no tourism began in mid-March – the second quarter was the worst-performing with arrivals down by 97 per cent.
But tourists began visiting again in June as the sector began to reopen.
Still, the fall-off in stayover arrivals continued through to September – when a gradual reversal began – and continued right up to December.
Cruise lines plying Caribbean routes remain non-operational due to a strict ban imposed by the US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
Like stayover arrivals, cruise was buoyed by the performance in the first three months of 2020, particularly the month of February, when there was a 4.2 per cent rise in visits.
However, a 20 per cent fall in the first quarter was followed by no activity for the remainder of the year as ships remained non-operational.
The overall result was a 72 per cent slide to 8.5 million cruise visits, when compared to the 30 million visits in 2019.
Image: Jamaica Tourist Board