“CRUISE lines plan to steer their ships away from major Caribbean ports after Hurricane Irma ripped through the paradise islands, dealing an extra economic blow to the region ravaged by the storm.
Devastated local communities are trying to recover from the killer storm but depend on the daily arrival of ships packed with thousands of tourists.
Caribbean communities depend on the daily arrival of ships packed with thousands of tourists from all over the world, particularly during the winter season.”
A Caribbean economic recession is inevitable. Some Leeward Islands will be wiped out totally; others will suffer declines of 30-50% of their GDP. Hospitality, the number one economic leg of most islands, is an extremely fragile and sensitive product. The service economy, already on a titter-totter on most islands, is totally devastated after the hurricane.
Disaster aid may help the balance sheet a little but is not going to bring back part or all of the annual 22 million tourists.
From experience, we know that foreign visitors have many alternatives and immediately shy away from conflict areas.
Whether that means that they will stay away from all of the Caribbean or just the badly hurt Leeward islands, is to be seen.
Where do people turn? Most likely, they will go to friends and family aboard. The Caribbean has had a migration of mostly young talent for many years, predominantly in Europe and the USA.
The migration from the Caribbean of its youth to Europe and USA may become larger than ever before.
The French island, as an integrated part of French proper, are by far the easiest for locals, but all those islands that preferred autonomy or independence from Europe or the USA, we have to go through rigorous and painful immigration procedures.
The international disaster relief may help a little. You can be sure that Trump’s new populist nationalism and fascism in the USA will not be forthcoming, hurricanes or not.
Interesting is how the shadow economy will react. Will there be more or less narco-trafficking? Will narco business be easier or more difficult? There will be less money for local consumption but more eagerness to make money. What will the trade-off be???
The Caribbean as a tourist destination will be dead for at least five years or longer. Will the Lesser Antilles benefit or suffer in tandem with the Leeward Islands?
Whatever contingency plans were on the shelf, nothing was prepared for a total devastation like this. All rescue plans were preoccupied with a stream of refugees from Venezuela, but who still cares about Maduro’s Bolivarian experiment?
In any case, politicians have lost again, this time to nature.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle