WITH the regional tourism industry projected to contract by 30 per cent this year following a devastating blow from the coronavirus pandemic, players in the sector are being encourgaed to look at investment in technology to lead the rebound.
So far this year there has been a 75 per cent decline in tourist arrivals to the region amid continued travel restrictions and a general reduction in persons heading overseas for vacations.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, while speaking at last Friday’s Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association forum, said along with the expected training and development of human capital, investment in technology must be pursued to meet the demands of tourism in the COVID-19 era.
“There’s going to be a greater dependence on technology to drive a number of experiences in the region. There’s going to be a lot more reliance on health standards and more importantly, there’s going to be a lot more reliance on touchless technology – both at our airports for a more seamless entry as well as in our hotels and our attractions across the region,” said Bartlett.
“So the third big area I believe [we need] to look at is investment. There is need for new investments to emerge within the Caribbean space so as to provide some of these critical equipment and infrastructure that is going to be needed to deal with this new set of visitors who are coming,” he added.
He said hotel construction will now have to include the technology to comport with the need for new biosocial and other requirements that the industry is going to demand.
His assessment was supported by Caribbean Development Bank statistician Didial Ramrattan who stressed the need for regional governments to “grow our ability to attract new investments”.
He said in spite of doing business reforms and countries’ improving ratings, over the last decade the average rank of the region in terms of competitiveness has been “more than slipping” and has been in “serious decline”.
“Your competitive framework is what will attract not only foreign direct investment in tourism but in some of the other areas such as agriculture and manufacturing, [which] can give us a deeper fabric of recovery,” said Ramrattan.