Knock-On Effects of Caribbean Tourism Battered by Covid-19
Dr. Suzette Haughton, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica
The world witnessed an unprecedented halt on migration and mobility when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic in March. Governments of Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago imposed emergency restrictions on movements. Airports and seaports, schools, and non-essential businesses were closed, shelter-in-place and digital work from home measures were adopted, and curfews and travel bans were enacted to enforce governments’ lockdown strategies — all these measures have disrupted travel mobility.
Covid-19 will continue to impair mobility for the short to medium term, while the long-term outlook is uncertain. The future of regional and international seasonal work is in question given mobility restrictions and fears over a second wave of infections. In the 2018/2019 quarter, Caribbean international migration trends were dominated by seasonal contract labor and work and study migration. If Caribbean workers and students are barred from traveling overseas to work and study, and remote working and distance education continue, migration patterns will be affected.
Tourism supports travel mobility into the region and is a major foreign exchange earner for Caribbean states. For these states, the incremental opening of operations and ports of entry and exit began in mid-June 2020. The phased opening of borders is likely to energize the tourism sector and improve the prospects for travel mobility, since travelers from developed countries are likely to holiday in the region.
In the upcoming 2020/2021 quarter, one trend to watch will be the impact of Covid-19 on Caribbean economies and the livelihoods of citizens. As jobs disappear and furlough schemes appear, the impact on mortgages will mean that some Caribbean citizens are likely to lose their homes. An increase in urban to rural migration is possible as individuals might opt to move from expensive cities to rural areas where the cost of living is lower. The potential impact of declining Caribbean economies on international migration is another related trend to observe, as some Caribbean citizens might delay relocating to major migration destinations such as Canada, the UK, and the USA.