A major economic driver on the Caribbean development agenda; Tourism, for many regional economies, has become the most important productive sector in terms of contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and foreign exchange earnings. In a region where high levels of unemployment continue to be a major concern, it provides significant employment opportunities; its linkages adding value in other economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and handicraft. This sector has served as a catalyst for development in several other areas of the economy, including ancillary services and infrastructure - especially air and seaports and roads. It has also facilitated the conservation and preservation of local heritage and culture and improvement of product and service standards, especially in the food services industry.
The Tourism Sector has been identified as one of the key economic growth drivers in the CARICOM’s Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2019. In this context, CARICOM Heads of Government approved the recommendation of the Commission on the Economy that this sector be considered an early growth driver which could provide significant spin-off linkages with others sectors, namely construction (via expanding the accommodation and entertainment facilities and related infrastructure); agriculture and agro-processing (to support increased demand for food and other products for the tourism industry); and energy particularly through a targeted renewable energy programme (aimed at reducing dependence on imported fuel and promoting a new industry activity.
Sports Tourism, with its significant social and economic gains for the Region, has also been identified. Local athletic championships and other sporting events potentially shore up visitor arrivals to many CARICOM countries, annually. Statistics indicate Sports Tourism accounted for 14 per cent of the overall tourism and travel industry and that growth was guaranteed for the next ten years. In addition to the direct income from visitor arrivals to sporting events in the Caribbean, the economic potential of sports is also realised through the media value generated from sporting events; branding and endorsements through successful athletes; and collaborations in the cultural industries, as in the case of
The CARICOM Secretariat (particularly its Tourism sub-programme) continues to work with the CARICOM Commission on the Economy, in collaboration with stakeholders such as the private sector and regional organisations, to build the competitiveness of this sector so that it remains competitive in the global tourism market.
Major areas for focus in 2016
- Ongoing work to support initiatives by stakeholders to promote and improve sustainable tourism, including tourism linkages with the agricultural sector.
- Ongoing collaboration with Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and United Nation World Tourism Organisation ( UNWTO) to, among other things, monitor developments in the world tourism markets.
- Ongoing work to advance the work of the Commission of the Economy and the Commission on Transportation on tourism related matters.