After the tourism industry in Central America and the Dominican Republic recorded its lowest level of visitor arrivals ever, all countries are ready to welcome guests once again. Of course, with the implementation of strict health and safety measures and strategies to support MSMEs, which represent 90% of tourism providers in the region.
When taking stock of the damage, the closing of borders and the paralyzing of economic and social activities worldwide, as a measure to prevent the impact of Covid-19, generated an exponential decrease in world tourism.
The activity recorded its worst year in 2020, with a 74% drop in international arrivals (1 billion less than in 2019), indicates information from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). In comparison, the decline recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis was 4%.
The slump in international travel represents estimated losses of $1.3 billion dollars (mdd) in export revenues, a figure that multiplies by more than 11 times the losses recorded during the 2009 crisis.
In the case of the Americas, international tourist arrivals from January to October 2020 fell -68%. Fortunately, growth in this area is estimated from the third quarter of 2021.
“All countries in the region are in reopening processes, which are under constant review to determine progress, which involves collaborative work between air, land and maritime transport, and items that nourish the sector,” explained Carolina Briones, general secretary of the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA).
As for entry, most countries require a negative Covid-19 PCR test obtained 72 hours prior to flight boarding. Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are the exception, having eliminated this requirement, as they apply rapid tests at their airports to travelers entering the country.
In terms of air connections, around 15 international airlines are operating to Central America and the DR, and it is estimated that in these first months of the year more companies will restart their operations in the region.
In the Dominican Republic, a responsible reopening program has been implemented, which, in addition to health and hygiene protocols, has a free assistance plan for tourists. This includes coverage of medical emergencies for patients with Covid-19.
“The reactivation of the industry will be gradual. In fact, it will start with the local tourist in each of the countries, as a first stimulus to the value chain that integrates it. This was witnessed by the inhabitants of the region in the last two months of 2020,” said Briones.
This represents an opportunity to boost it, since tourist destinations are usually located in a chain of nodes characterized by their proximity to one another. Eventually this would also boost intra-regional tourism, which is expected to be the second to be reactivated.
The market is vital for Central America. For example, in 2019, 5.13 million tourists were registered from countries in the region, representing 29% of the total.
Finally, international travel is expected to experience a significant reactivation during the third quarter of 2021, according to Listín Diario.
“Future expectations for the industry are positive, as the sector has an unmatched resilience that has allowed it to emerge from past crises such as the one in 2009,” Briones pointed out.
For the DR, the advantage of the destination is the good practices of many of its operators, especially the international ones that already had the experience of a more advanced reopening process, said Andrés Marranzini, executive vice-president of the Dominican Association of Hotels and Tourism (Asonahores).
Destinations like Punta Cana, have taken a lead in the international context that puts them at the forefront and allows them to accumulate new experience, which undoubtedly should help for the times to come, which will not be short yet, said Arturo García Rosa, president and founder of RHC Latin America & The Caribbean.
He indicated that the vaccination process, consequent immunization and follow-up of the actual post-vaccination results, will still take some time. Therefore, he expects that by mid to late 2022 a recovery will start to be seen, while reaching pre-pandemic figures (2019) will not happen until 2023.
“There is a future, people will return to travel, and they will do so with strength, with enthusiasm within a context that perhaps finds its biggest change in the fact of returning to less travel for more time and not more travel for less time,” said Garcia Rosa.