The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has said “ignorance” of the geography of the region has led to confusion over how widespread the damage caused by hurricanes this year has been.
In a World Travel Market press conference in which the message was that the Caribbean was open as usual, representatives were asked about whether the reporting of the extent of the in the mainstream media was fair.
Stating that he was choosing his words “carefully”, CTO chairman Dionisio D’Aguillar, the minister of tourism for the Bahamas, suggested that bad news sells.
He said: “Certainly there are a number of organisations that get viewership when the situation is probably not as desperate as they are reporting that it is.
“When you are sitting in the Bahamas and hearing what’s going on and then you look outside and an see what’s actually going on you wonder whether reporters are in the same country as you.”
He admitted that some countries were “absolutely devastated” by the hurricanes, that reached category five, but said that 75% of the Caribbean had been largely unaffected.
D’Aguillar added: “It means we will have to spend millions and millions of dollars [on marketing] to say that 75% of us are not devastated.”
Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, added: “A lot of it is general ignorance” and pointed out that the region between Miami and the far end of the islands is as far as London to Athens.
“If something happened in the north of the UK, it probably wouldn’t affect your visit to London Excel [the WTM venue],” he said.
Overall, visitor numbers have suffered since Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit the region.
The region was on track for record-breaking visitor numbers until a post-hurricane dip brought down the figures.
From January to June, visitor numbers to the Caribbean were 5.2% ahead of the CTO’s 2.5% growth target. Visitor numbers from the UK were 4.8% up on 2016 “despite weak sterling”.
According to Forward Keys, arrivals from the UK – which account for 25% of visitors to the Caribbean – will be down 0.9% based on forward booking figures from November to April.
Visitors from Germany in the same period are expected to be down by nearly 11% although arrivals from other European destinations are in fact expected to grow – some in double figures such as the 20.9% predicted upturn in Spanish arrivals.
Overall, that means European visitors to the Caribbean are expected to rise by 2% between now and April.
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