With yet another devastating hurricane hitting the Caribbean, we should all hope the region won’t once again be hurt by negative traveler perception.
Hurricanes aren’t new in the Caribbean, but it seems like a new pattern of mega-storms hitting every couple of years in disparate portions of the region is testing travelers’ willingness to head to the tourism-heavy area.
The talk around Caribbean hoteliers following the 2017 wave of storms (Irma and Maria) centered on how the storm not only damaged the region physically, but also sent negative perceptions spiraling out of control.
Travelers didn’t want to go to areas completely unaffected by the storms because in their minds the entire region was hit. They didn’t consider that the islands of the Caribbean cover a massive area. The distance between Barbados and The Cayman Islands, for example, is roughly the same as the distance between New York and Orlando.
The damage in the portions of the Bahamas that have been devastated by Hurricane Dorian is undoubtedly tragic. The business impacts from the storm are obviously not the top concern at the moment, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope traveler misconceptions don’t end up inflicting unneeded economic pain on the broader region, as well.
I know from attending the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit the past couple of years, that cross-region communications and disaster response has been a focus for tourism organizations in the Caribbean.
This will definitely be a test of lessons learned from the past couple of years, and there’s reason to be hopeful that late 2019 and 2020 are different than late 2017 and 2018 for the region.
It’s hard to say whether this is the new normal for the region, but if it is, everyone will be better off if the adjustment is made sooner rather than later.
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