Geographic misconceptions hurting Caribbean economies

By Sarah Peter:

Nassua,Bahamas:– The mistaken perception among many travelers of the complete devastation of the Caribbean in the wake of the 2018 hurricane season caused further economic destruction to the region’s economy.

That’s according to the Chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Joy Jibrilu. She raised the concern amid staggering losses among countries which were not impacted by the 2017 Hurricane season.

Jibrilu says following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria to some islands in the region, many travelers called and canceled for countries who were not impacted by the storm.

This resulted in a significant drop in hotel room demand across the entire Caribbean. In light of that another disaster, an economic storm, was created which resulted in great losses in tourism revenue and a challenge for tourism officials.

 “All our travel partners, all of them without exception called and said that we have heard the Caribbean  is closed.”

She further added that  Caribbean islands irrespective of if they were not actually impacted by the storm were economically  affected.

We all lost when people were not sure if or when to book if they canceled. You saw a dip in bookings because people thought that the islands which were not impacted were. We must quantify the figures of lost business so we can share the story with the world to tell them how serious it is. “

The chair of the CTO says that over one billion US dollars in tourism revenue was lost in the wake of last year’s hurricane season, the costliest hurricane season on record. 

 Jibrilu, who is also the Director of Tourism for the island of Barbados says the region’s reconstruction and recovery effort has been estimated at close to  6 billion dollars. 

“Tourism is the region’s greatest driver of foreign exchange tax revenue and reliable vehicle of poverty reduction and human capital development for the region’s small island developing states. The tragedy is that the dampening of demand occurred even among islands that were not in the path of the storm.  This contributes to  an economic disaster as tourism visitation dropped of resulting in significant losses in revenue.”

Jilbrilu blamed the international media for the problem. She says their reports describes the region as if it was one country as opposed to several different islands. The chairman of the CTO says this inaccurate reporting is costing a region millions and negatively impacting lives in the region.

“First of all if we look at international news reporters when they talk about a hurricane they say the “Caribbean” has been impacted. They generalize and say the entire Caribbean. As a result, people look at the Caribbean as a whole unit as oppose to all these different countries, thousands of miles away from each other. To put it in context the Bahamas alone from north to south covers one hundred thousand square miles that is further than the distance of  Toronto to New York.  So if a storm happens in New York no one would say I am not going to Toronto. They just would not, it just does not make sense but when people lump the Caribbean  together as just one region ( as if it was just one country ) it  is negative.”

Jilbrilu says the region’s economy and people lives depend on accurate reporting and think making the international media more aware of this matter is a matter of economic prosperity or suffering for the region’s people.

 “What we have done is to educate people of the geography of the Caribbean, that the same time it takes to travel from the Bahamas to Barbados is the same as traveling from London in the UK to Rome, Italy. So what happens to the Bahamas does not impact Barbados and vice versa.  We really  want to get that message out.”

Jilbrilu made the disclosure at the 2018 annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup in the Bahamas. Dubbed as the Caribbean region’s largest aviation conference the annual event brings together major players from the aviation and tourism industries aimed at tackling problems faced by the  World and the Caribbean’s Tourism and Aviation industries.

1 Comment

  1. Vibz
    June 15, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Very well articulated Ms. Jibrilu. Many people, more particularly US citizens, have an erroneous geographical perception of the Caribbean region. Too many of them think that many of the islands are part of Jamaica. Look at their news, they focus mostly on internal affairs and just barely mention anything that relates to the outside world. One huge concern about Caribbean economies, they are too much reliant on tourism. This industry is too fragile and most of the profits are ‘extradited’ to the foreign hoteliers’ homes of origin. We need to diversify into agriculture, agro-processing, light and service industries, and generally generate more produce and goods for export.