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Reuters English News Service

Caribbean Region Suffers Post-Sept. 11 Job Losses

By Linda Hutchinson-Jafar

April 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Reuters Limited. All Rights Reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The Caribbean region is expected to lose 365,000 jobs on a 13.5 percent drop in tourism for the 2001-2002 season as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, a leading tourism official said.

But the region will see a significant recovery in 2003, with demand surging 7.1 percent, Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said on Wednesday at the sixth annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference.

"For 2001-2002, we see a decrease in demand of 13.5 percent in the Caribbean, one of the largest in the world, and we forecast a loss of jobs of 365,000 jobs," he said. "That's the price the Caribbean has to pay for 9/11."

Baumgarten said he estimated that about 140,000 jobs will be created in 2003 in the Caribbean, a region where tourism and offshore financial services have replaced traditional industries such as sugar, bananas and rum as key cogs in the local economies.

"So we see if nothing major happens, we see a fantastic rebound in 2003, which shows that our industry is the most resilient in the world," he said.

Tourism businesses around the world suffered dramatic losses when people delayed or canceled trips after hijackers crashed commercial jets into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon near Washington. Airlines laid off tens of thousands of employees and hotels followed suit.

According to information provided by the WTTC, a London-based organization of travel industry chief executives, the Dominican Republic is expected to be hardest hit, losing an estimated $837.2 million in 2001-2002 as a result of the decline in tourism.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. Caribbean territory, will suffer a projected loss of $589 million. Jamaica is expected to lose $299 million and the Bahamas $282.5 million.

Dominican Republic is estimated to lose some 192,000 jobs in 2001-2002, Cuba about 68,000 jobs, Jamaica 32,000 and Haiti about 15,000 jobs.

Ralph Taylor, president of the Caribbean Hotel Association, said the crisis in Caribbean tourism over the past few months, however, has produced an unprecedented cohesion between the public and private sectors in the region.

"(It) helped to underline the importance of tourism to the national economies of Caribbean countries," he said.

Taylor said the Caribbean needs significant investment in hotels, theme parks, water attractions and other ancillary products to woo additional customers.

He said in recent years, places such as Aruba, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico have managed to capture the interest of investors by developing and promoting economically sound tourism-investment policies.

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