The Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region of the world and the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating economic blow to the traditional travel patterns of the global industry.
The World Travel and Tourism Council – the global organization that reinstated traveler confidence through past crises; the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association – the largest Caribbean travel trade organization; the Caribbean Tourism Organization – the regional intergovernmental organization that promotes sustainable tourism; David Jessop – a consultant to The Caribbean Council which supports trade, investment and development across the Caribbean and Central America; Sandals Resorts International – the undisputed leader of Caribbean vacation experiences; and Marketplace Excellence – a U.S.-based Caribbean-led company, which excels at disruptive innovative public relations and marketing models; have each recognized that tourism recovery is key, if future Caribbean economic growth is to be successful.
This column signals the start of a series of six which addresses the recovery of the tourism business as we set our sights on the transition to a post-pandemic experience.
We are in this together and what better way to build a solid foundation for recovery than to foster public-private partnerships not only within a Caribbean country but also between Caribbean countries and beyond.
The private and public sectors must work together. The private sector drives the system, as the engine of growth, and the public sector lubricates the engine with appropriate policy initiatives, including the provision of incentives to the private sector and an enabling environment.
Financial security is also a challenge. We need to feel the peace of mind that we have sources of income to cover development costs as well as recurring costs. We must look without the region to access funds for development and within the region to creatively mobilize our savings for investment in sustainable export projects to the mutual benefit of Caribbean economic growth and hence the growth of the private sector.
Using the latest technology, public relations and marketing must be introduced to communicate the messages of tourism recovery to the local, regional and global communities. When our airports are reopened, the business and vacation travel experience will be shrouded with necessary public health protocols which must be successfully communicated through messaging to all stakeholders.
Also, there is a major opportunity to market aggressively and tap the pent-up demand for travel induced by forced lockdowns as well as to reach across non-traditional markets and households with high levels of disposable income.
Market expansion ought to be accompanied by the need to perform day-to-day activities with excellence to stimulate a high quality, zero defects, highly productive and competitive environment. We should be inspired by Ralph Marston's mantra: “Excellence is not a skill it is an attitude.”
As the industry expands, so too must the training of our people, our most important asset, to the fullest. Change in mindset, skillset and cross-cultural communication is paramount as we recover and penetrate the global market.
As the pandemic still ravages in many countries, we must be positive, have faith, be passionate, persevere, and be patient as we pursue our vision for tourism recovery by taking relevant systematic and evolutionary action steps.
Forward march, as we challenge the heavy winds that lie ahead.