Published: Thursday, March 23, 2023

In recent commentary in Latin America Advisor, Andrea M. Ewart, CEO of DevelopTradeLaw, discussed the rebound of tourism in the Caribbean after the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region in the world, the pandemic had a significant impact on the region’s economy.

Tourism to the Caribbean soared last year as 28 million people visited the region, a jump of more than 50 percent as compared to 2021, the Caribbean Tourism Organization announced March 7. The number of visitors to some Dutch and U.S. territories in the Caribbean even surpassed arrivals from before the Covid-19 pandemic. What are the main reasons behind the strong rebound of tourism in the Caribbean? How damaging was the fall in tourism during the pandemic, and how important is the bounce-back for the region’s economies? How likely are the current tourism levels in the Caribbean to be sustained, and grow, in coming years?

Andrea M. Ewart, CEO of DevelopTradeLaw: “With the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region in the world, it is not surprising that it was also the region that experienced the most significant drop in travel and tourism revenues in 2020. By mid-2021, however, Caribbean destinations shared in the worldwide tourism industry rebound. According to U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, the significant jump in 2022 tourist arrivals to the Caribbean can be primarily attributed to the rebound in four locations—the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Dominican Republic and Curaçao. In all four, tourist arrival numbers exceeded pre-pandemic levels. In fact, these destinations remained popular even during the pandemic. One-third of the remaining destinations have recovered at least 80 percent of their pre-pandemic arrivals. This recovery speaks to the popularity of Caribbean destinations—in particular among Americans—and to geography. This recovery is also very important to the Caribbean economies in the short term, with governments able to reclaim the revenue brought in by taxes on cruise lines and airport arrivals. Tourism contributed 13.9 percent to the region’s GDP in 2019. However, in the longer term, structural weaknesses continue to undermine countries’ abilities to fully capitalize on tourism. These weaknesses include the limited linkages to sectors in the local economy and heavy reliance on imported foods, weak intraregional connectivity, an underdeveloped work force and a need for product diversification. The fact that no Caribbean destination made the UNWTO’s list of top destinations based on receipts from tourism underscores the importance of these reforms to the long-term resilience of these economies.

To read more on the subject, the challenges and opportunities facing the Caribbean’s tourism industry, we encourage you to read the full interview here:


Andrea Ewart

Andrea Ewart

I am a seasoned international trade and customs attorney, and policy adviser for various companies and governments with a demonstrated history of successfully developing and implementing sustainable and dynamic trade programs. I am experienced in creating partnerships with various business-support organizations to drive compliance and growth in the international market.