As the Caribbean tourism sector continues to reel from the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with border closures and national lockdowns forcing hotels to scale back or shutter operations altogether, regional bank CIBC FirstCaribbean has restated its commitment to ensuring the sector returns to viability.
Speaking recently during a webinar themed ‘COVID-19 and Investment in Caribbean Infrastructure’, Managing Director and Head of Investment Banking Adam Carter said the hospitality and hotel industry accounted for “a large part of our portfolio and we will continue to be active in it”.
He noted that tourism was the “lifeblood of the Caribbean” and, for this reason, the bank would continue to focus on putting “time, effort and capital into the sector. That is not changing”.
Carter shared that the bank had received “lots of requests for support and we are helping our clients through this storm”.
However, he pointed out that there was a need to improve some of the region’s tourism infrastructure and this could be achieved through public-private partnerships. The banker added that the region must “do all to improve its marketability so that when borders do reopen, we are one of the first destinations visitors will want to come to”.
Fellow panellist S Brian Samuels, head, Public-Private Partnerships, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), earlier during the webinar warned that the region’s tourism sector — including long-stay and cruise arrivals — may not immediately return to previous levels of profitability. He further cautioned that the region needed to “adjust our tourism away from the mass market” as the Caribbean may see less tourist arrivals after COVID-19.
With the cost of travel projected to rise significantly, and as the world economy slips slowly into a recession potentially worse than that of 2008/09, Samuels said the Caribbean should prepare to welcome more high-end visitors.
Agreeing with Samuels, President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation Diane Edwards emphasised that the high-end segment of the tourism market will remain; however, she argued that the “challenge for hotels will be what protocols will be put in place to ensure their safety”.
Edwards also noted that the region should continue its push toward major investment in renewable energy as well as building up health care infrastructure in the region.
To this point Stephen C Beatty — global chairman, Infrastructure; and chairman, Global Cities Center of Excellence at KPMG — concurred.
He stated that the Caribbean now has a “huge opportunity to transform how healthcare is delivered” by moving away from investing in building traditional hospitals and investing significantly in telemedicine and the technology to deliver it efficiently.