Tourism-Dependent Caribbean Sees Signs of Life on Travel Uptick
(Bloomberg) -- Some Caribbean nations are seeing signs of a recovery in tourism after border closures and the Covid-19 pandemic decimated their economies last year.
The Dominican Republic received 1.4 million visitors in the first five months of the year, a trend that should accelerate in the second half of 2021, Hector Manuel Valdez Albizu, the country’s central bank president, said in a webinar with Bloomberg. More than 390,000 people visited the country in May, a 20% increase on April, but still shy of the more than half a million visitors in May 2019.
“Tourism is coming back gradually,” Valdez said. “We’re on the right path and the projection is that the sector will continue recovering in the coming months.” The tourism industry provided the nation with $7.5 billion in foreign currency in 2019, he said, adding that tourism represents more than 90% of GDP for some smaller Caribbean islands.
The Bahamas, where GDP contracted 16% in 2020, is also starting to receive cruise ships at its ports, and hotels are rehiring some of the workers laid off last year, Bahamas Central Bank Governor John A. Rolle said in the webinar. The decline in foreign arrivals contributed to a government fiscal deficit that widened to more than 10% of GDP last year, he said.
As vaccinations increase and people eye travel, Caribbean nations stand to benefit due to their proximity to the U.S., Senior Director for Fitch Ratings Charles Seville said. Many Caribbean islands have few restrictions and easy entry requirements, making them more friendly to foreign travelers. Investors in tourism businesses in the region are betting on an expansion of the industry in the future, he said.
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