Additional sources of funding must be established to help Caribbean tourism withstand future crises.
That’s among recommendations in a new report on a study on the effects of COVID-19 on national destination management and marketing organisations in member countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and their early responses to the global pandemic, conducted by the George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies (GW IITS) and the CTO.
The survey found that COVID-19 affected the financial health of the tourism organisations, with nearly of all of those polled either had, or expected, cuts to their operating budgets.
“This is an ominous signal,” the report said.
It called for advocacy on behalf of the destination organisations for financial support in order to remain strong and help to lead tourism’s recovery and rebuilding efforts.
It also said these entities would have to find creative ways to do more with less, especially with regards to marketing.
“Moving forward, destination organisations will need to consider how to diversify their funding sources, which are mainly based on lodging and cruise taxes, to ensure that they can withstand future COVID-19 waves and future shocks to the tourism industry,” GW IITS recommended.
At the same time it said the tourism bodies needed to remain vigilant and advocate for continued support to tourism businesses if these businesses are to survive.
“Without sustained financial assistance, tourism businesses that are operating at less than full capacity will be challenged to remain in business through 2020,” the report said.
In addition to funding, the report also stresses the need for effective crisis management and communications among the immediate steps needed to recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19 and its impact on tourism.
Seleni Matus, GW IITS’ executive director said: “It’s essential that destination organisations act now to work with local governments and businesses to find ways to create public and private partnerships that will benefit all parties involved, from hotels, tour operators and restaurants to local residents and tourists—immediate investment is urgently needed.”
The online survey, designed and analysed by GW IITS, was conducted from 6 -22 May amongst CTO’s 24 member countries. The GW IITS also inventoried tourism destination actions from mid-March to early May on mobility, economic relief, destination management and community support, crisis communication and destination marketing.
The university also reviewed the websites and social media channels of various destination marketing organisations, industry associations and destination consumer-facing websites to better understand the tourism industry’s response to COVID-19, and it compiled data on mobility and economic relief from various secondary sources.
Forty-three countries in the greater Caribbean, including CTO’s 24 member countries, were included in this component of the research.