The Caribbean Hotel Tourism Association (CHTA) is exploring options to spice up intra-regional travel which is currently still removed from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig said on Wednesday that business and leisure travel throughout the region is estimated to have recovered 30 per cent, which is significantly lower than the return to international travel.
“Now that’s quite significant considering that, by way of international travel, we’re probably within the region coming near 70 per cent of pre-pandemic level. So, we’re seeing a significant rebound for international travel, but travel throughout the region will not be there as yet,” Madden-Greig said on the CHTA’s Rebuilding Intra-Caribbean Travel, Session 1: Profile of the Intra-Caribbean Traveler and Understanding the Obstacles and Opportunities for Stimulating its Recovery panel discussion, via Zoom.
“We have now smaller Caribbean economies and smaller locally-owned businesses which are particularly hard hit by this because numerous the smaller firms do profit from intra-Caribbean travel. And we even have our larger countries that rely upon regional trade to bolster local economies and sell local goods and services.”
Madden-Greig stressed that the return of more regional travel would stimulate higher local spending and increase trade in local goods and services while boosting government revenues and native economies.
In line with the CHTA official, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of domestic and regional travel.
“This stimulated a new sort of travel and that’s where we within the Caribbean actually need to focus. We have now to have a look at how we within the Caribbean, using the tools and techniques that we have now, can really deal with constructing out our regional travel,” she said.
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Secretary-General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Neil Walters, who was amongst speakers on the panel discussion, said that based on low COVID-19 infection rates relative to the remaining of the world, intra-regional travel for leisure could possibly be a viable stopgap in a future pandemic or similar period of travel restriction.
Amongst his suggestions for reinforcing intra-regional travel were raising the attention of the regional traveller that an undiscovered experience may lie just just a few miles beyond their shores, and promoting travel for culture and heritage to regional visitors, especially in non-traditional travel months.
The CEO noted that CARICOM has agreed to look into reducing taxes on intra-regional travel and added that there have to be continued routing adjustments by other carriers within the Caribbean to mitigate against the numerous reduction of services by regional airline LIAT.