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One Caribbean - A Double Edged Sword

Written by  Douglas Cooke

For years, the tourism industry organizations in the Caribbean have been working to market the Caribbean as one region connected by a common sea. The idea is to create awareness of the Caribbean as a region to draw potential worldwide travelers. And, while it is true that a united effort can accomplish much more than a fragmented approach to enhancing awareness of the region as whole, this strategy can also backfire when certain parts of that region are faced with adversity.

The impact of how a regional perception can be detremental was felt most recently in the Caribbean following the devastation that was wrought by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Prior to these catastrophic September storms, tourism in the Caribbean was on track for a banner year. Then came that fateful week when, not one, but two strong hurricanes lashed the Eastern Caribbean and derailed tourism for the entire region, including those islands totally unaffected by the storm. Unfortunately, the perception of the Caribbean as one region served to dissuade people from traveling there, largely due to a lack of knowledge of the geograpghy of the area.

Public awareness and education about the region will help to mitigate the effects of these events, whether it be hurricanes, Zika or other natural or man made challenges. And this is where the true value of a One Caribbean approach can be seen. Hugh Riley, Director General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization said recently, “We need to communicate better when there is a problem in the region.”

We need to reinforce the value and the attributes of the Caribbean brand, educating the public and the travel industry on the geography of the Caribbean and generating demand for the region’s tourism product.
Hurricane affected countries are rebounding after last September’s devastation by Irma and Maria. The least affected countries are at or near normality, while the worst hit ones, which recorded decreases ranging from -18 percent to -7 percent in 2017, continue to make progress, five months after the storms.

Our job as travel trade media is to provide you, our travel agent readers, an accurate picture of what is in fact happening in the affected regions so you can properly advise your clients on a vaction experience that will meet their expectations. With that goal in mind, please see a summary of the current state of recovery of the most heavily impacted islands provided by the CTO in this publication, on page 31.

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