Time for growth, not increased taxes, says CHTA
Threatened by rising operation costs, labour shortage, increasing airfares and global competition, Caribbean hoteliers are warning governments in the region not to increase taxes on the tourism industry at this time because of economic uncertainty.
Although the industry continues to lead the region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakeholders say they face formidable challenges.
Unveiling the 2022 performance and 2023 outlook survey results on Wednesday, Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA) President Nicola Madden-Greog said it is time to foster growth and ensure a strong recovery of the industry, “so that we can continue to play our part by bringing in indirect taxes”.
According to Madden-Greig, the members of her association continue to forego higher profits, plowing returns into covering debts incurred during the pandemic and opting to invest in product improvements as capital expenditures soar, even while facing supply chain shortages.
Madden-Greig, who spoke on behalf of some 1,000 hotel and allied members and the 33 national hotel associations that are members of CHTA, released the findings of ForwardKeys, an analytical company that provides insights on millions of daily flights, and data intelligence organisation STR.
She was quick to point out that despite these challenges, the future of Caribbean tourism was very strong.
In fact, the 10 top performing destinations, which include number seven-ranked Jamaica, are already above 2019 pre-COVID levels as at February 2023. The top five performing destinations in the region are the US Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. All the countries are experiencing double-digit increases in stop-over arrivals.
Latin America as a source market is showing significant interest with Panama being credited as the connecting point for South America and the Caribbean.
In the first quarter of the winter tourist season, which kicked off on December 15, 2022, the fastest-growing source markets for the region were Colombia, Argentina and the United States, with Colombia showing a 50 per cent increase over the period.
The most resilient destinations receiving the most US visitors are Curaçao, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Jamaica, the survey says, is getting far more visitors than the rest of the region from Argentina, falling in second place behind Curaçao.
The forecast for spring and summer is also extremely encouraging, with a number of airlines rebuilding capacity at full speed.
Low-cost carrier Spirit Air has increased its seat capacity into the region by 134 per cent, while United Airlines is at close to 120 per cent. American and JetBlue are in the low 90s and Delta at 82 per cent.
According to Madden-Greig, despite the challenges, the industry remains bullish about the future of tourism in the Caribbean.