BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - TOURISM officials are expecting a significant rebound in that sector as their projection is to see levels close to or matching those prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tourism sector was the hardest hit area of economies across the globe and the Federation was not immune to that, as COVID mitigation measures had caused the decline.
The borders of many countries worldwide were closed to both incoming and outgoing travellers, whilst in some cases strict requirements for entry were implemented, which forced airlines to cut flights to certain destinations and cruise ships were parked for months or more than a year.
The twin-island Federation’s economy is highly dependent on tourist arrivals and, during the pandemic, there was a significant fall off as a result of limited activities.
In its 2021 Conclusion Report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), indicated: “The complete halt in cruise ship arrivals and very few stayover tourists since the first quarter of 2020 compounded on the pandemic’s disruptions on domestic activity…Nonetheless, the pandemic resulted in an estimated annual decline in GDP of 12½ percent, and the general government’s first fiscal deficit (4.7 percent of GDP) since 2010.”
Officials are now forecasting a significant rebound that would bolster the fledgling economy and newly-minted Minister of Tourism, Marsha Henderson is confident of its success as she outlined expectations for the rebound.
During Thursday’s (Sept. 8) press conference, she told reporters that after two years of travel restrictions, “ people are ready to travel again”.
That comes at a time when the Government is loosening restrictions for travels to the Federation after the pandemic, and Minister Henderson is optimistic about the product being offered by St. Kitts and Nevis.
“St. Kitts can offer rich experiences, steeped in culture and history. This is our goal as it would boost the economic impact of our tourism industry,” she said.
But she is also calling for a diversification of the tourism product on offer by identifying culturally immersed products that are unique to St. Kitts and Nevis, which would increase the demand for the destination.
That diversification, noted the Minister, would require intense collaboration with various stakeholders to provide the wide experience, such as agriculture and sports.
“We cannot look at our product offerings the same way we did two years ago. Our visitors want to feel and see an authentic St. Kitts and Nevis where they can engage with us and not simply be observers,” added Minister Henderson.
Chief Executive Officer of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Tommy Thompson noted that “tourism is on the rebound”, explaining that two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic people are ready to vacation again.
Though it does not speak to the end of the current pandemic, the CEO is adamant that the corner has been turned where the virus has moved from a pandemic to an endemic.
“And with pent-up demand for travel, the industry is in a flux. So you have the desire for travel in terms of persons who would have saved money during the pandemic, so there is more cash and less credit card debt. So it is a perfect way for people to go and travel to their favourite destination,” added Thompson.
But even as they boast about the potential rebound, challenges remain, including regional airlift due to the collapse of LIAT and the Monkeypox Virus.
Generally, both the Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority are optimistic about the road ahead for the sector and will likely see success due to the continued demand for travel.