A release from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on Thursday said its annual economic impact report (EIR) showed the covid19 pandemic wiped out US$33.9 billion from the Caribbean region's economy.
It added that 680,000 jobs regionally were lost, with many more still hanging in the balance.
The release said, “Travel and tourism’s impact on the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell from US$58.4 billion (14.1 per cent) in 2019, to US$24.5 billion (6.4 per cent), just 12 months later, in 2020.”
The year of travel restrictions resulted in the job loss which accounts for almost a quarter of all jobs in the sector, the release said.
The council’s senior vice president Virginia Messina was quoted as saying it believes if travel restrictions on travel are relaxed before the summer period (June-September) with a “clear plan to allow inbound visitors to return to the region once again,” then those 680,000 jobs could return.
The council supports the introduction of a health pass similar to the European Commission’s Digital Green Certificate which, it said, would further enable safe international travel.
The European Commission’s website said the Digital Green Certificate is a digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against covid19, received a negative test result or recovered from covid19.
Messina said the loss of the jobs has had a terrible socio-economic impact on the region, leaving huge numbers of people fearing for their future.
“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.
“Our research shows that if mobility and international travel resume by June this year, the sector’s contribution to global GDP could rise sharply in 2021, by 48.5 per cent, year-on-year.”
Messina added while “great progress” was being made in some regions through vaccinations, it would take some time to inoculate the global population and hence governments should consider allowing travellers to cross borders through enhanced health and hygiene protocols and rapid testing.
The council said its knowledge partner, travel analytics firm Forward Keys, said most US departures in 2021 are to the Caribbean and Mexico which could bring a swift recovery to the region.
The release said the job losses were felt across the entire travel and tourism system with small and medium enterprises particularly affected and significantly affected women, youth and minorities.
Tthe number of those employed in the Caribbean Travel and Tourism sector fell from nearly 2.76 million in 2019, to 2.08 million in 2020, a drop of almost a quarter (24.7 per cent).
“The report also revealed domestic visitor spending declined by 49.6 per cent, with international spend faring even worse, falling by 68 per cent, due to the region’s strong reliance on international travel, with many of the islands massively impacted,” it said.
Countries such as St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands and St Vincent and the Grenadines saw all harsh losses, it said.