When it comes to the travel and tourism industry, the Caribbean seems to have it all: Exotic locales, yet not far from home … a “live and let live” culture that outdoes even Las Vegas or New Orleans in its breezy permissiveness … an area blissfully free of terrorism or other nasty intrusions of the “post-911” world.
And yet, the 2008 financial numbers are in on the Caribbean tourism industry, and they’re not pretty. According to PKF Hospitality Research, hotels across the Caribbean experienced a 16% decline in profits in 2008. And the prognosis for 2009 doesn’t look any better.
The downturn is having a major negative impact on most Caribbean economies, because in this region, “tourism” and “the economy” are essentially one and the same.
How are hotels and resort properties responding? By offering all sorts of special incentives and package deals. Or course, that’s what hospitality properties are doing all over the world, so the law of diminishing returns comes into play.
Many hotel and resort development projects are being shelved, too. PKF Hospitality Research counts as many as 51 of 105 development projects in the region that have been mothballed for the foreseeable future.
Is a turnaround in sight? If there’s to be one, it won’t be known until next year. Most of the region’s tourism dollars are brought in during just three months of the year — January through March.
In 2009, of course, that three-month period just happened to parallel the very worst part of the global downturn. So, based on that very low benchmark, most observers are expecting — hoping — that early 2010 will turn out to be “Calypso Season” rather than “Cataclysmo Season.”