Hurricane recovery in the Caribbean from 2017 storms could take up to four years 

Massive hurricanes that struck the Caribbean in late 2017 seem like a distant memory with the fast-changing global news cycle. But a full recovery from the effects of those storms could take up to four years, according to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).


Summary:

  • Loss of visitors to the Caribbean from 2017 hurricanes cost the region roughly USD741 million;
  • Recovery could take up to four years at a cost of USD3 billion, claims WTTC report;
  • Hotel inventory falls sharply after Hurricanes strike the Caribbean in late 2017;
  • Travel & Tourism supports roughly USD56.4  billion in GDP for the region.

One of the key findings from the report was the hurricane season resulted in an estimated loss in 2017 of 826,100 visitors to the region compared with pre-hurricane forecasts. “These visitors could have generated USD741 million and supported 11,005 jobs,” WTTC concluded.

The Council stated research suggests that recovery to previous levels could take up to four years, “and if this is the case, the region will miss out on over USD3 billion over this timeframe”.

Governments across the region can come together and partner with the private sector to speed of recovery through several initiatives, WTTC states.

Some of those actions include improving connectivity between islands to increase the competitiveness of the Caribbean as a destination and spread the benefits more widely, increasing duty-free exemptions on commonly-purchased goods and reduce tourism costs such as departure taxes and resort fees to stimulate travel and spending and investing in tourism sector training and education to upgrade skills of temporarily displaced workers to ensure the sector has access to a skilled workforce as it recovers and grows.

WTTC also warned that natural disasters similar to the hurricanes will “continue to hit the Caribbean and elsewhere, perhaps on a increasingly infrequent basis because of climate change”.

Recovery from severe hurricanes that struck the Caribbean during late 2017 has taken a backseat to more pressing news. But WTTC report shows impacts from the storms are lingering well into 2018 and beyond.

One of the obvious challenges is repairing damage to hotels that were unfortunately in the paths of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Barbuda in particular only had fewer than 100 hotel rooms before the storms. Puerto Rico hotel room inventory in Dec-2017 of 13,709 units dropped by 2,556 from August the same year. Anguilla lost 51% of its hotel room supply between August and December, WTTC concluded.

The largest single change in hotel room demand occurred in Sep-2017, “when room demand registered 1,055,000 rooms below 2016 levels”, WTTC concluded.

The Council offered some context for Travel & Tourism’s contribution to economic growth in the Caribbean. The roughly 46.7 million international visitors that came to the region in 2016 spent USD31.4 billion, supporting USD56.4 billion in GDP and 2.4 million jobs.

Overall, Travel & Tourism contributes 15.2% of the Caribbean’s GDP and 13.8% of its employment, which is more than double the world average of 10.4%.

WTTC stressed it is “vital to the Caribbean that Travel & Tourism recovers as quickly as possible from the damage caused by the unusually severe hurricanes of 2017 – most notably Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September. They had a major impact on popular tourist destinations such as the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, although around two thirds of the region avoided any damage.”