Coronavirus: Tourism could suffer in the Caribbean
Tourism dependent economies can take a huge hit this year as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
This among many other concerns were raised during The University of the West Indies' Vice-Chancellor Forum: COVID-19 Partnering in the Caribbean’s Response, which was held at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados today (March 9).
Dr Don Marshall, Director of Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, says as tourism-dependent islands, the region faces an uncertain future in relation to COVID-19 and what is required in relation to protocols for travel.
Dr Marshall said: “Already we have seen airlines hit by the absence of passengers and the willingness to travel somewhat slowed. There may be an uptick once countries settle on the protocols, once medical protocols kick in and public messages about washing your hands become a routine, there may be a return to confidence in the travel industry.”
However, if the World Health Organisation (WHO) labels the coronavirus a pandemic, he says the region faces an immediate threat as the risk metrics associated with insurance and everything with business will have to be reviewed.
Challenges will also be faced in the labour market as Dr Marshall says days lost from work will become the new normal, as workers will have to stay home with relatives exposed to COVID-19.
Oil price plunge
Dr Justin Ram, Director of Economics and the Caribbean Development Bank, expressed concern about the recent plunge in oil prices which he says has sent shivers through the market.
With respect to the impact of the coronavirus, Dr Ram says apart from having a negative effect on tourism, commodity-producing countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname are likely to see a significant hit to their economies with the price of oil plunging.
Dr Ram says any impact on the global travel industry will have a significant impact on the Caribbean region.
“Not only the tourism industry will be impacted, but there are also indirect impacts such as the agricultural sector and taxi drivers,” said Dr Ram.
To remain productive in the event COVID-19 penetrates the region, Dr Ram says governments must think about providing temporary health insurance coverage and should be encouraged to support paid sick leave which could help cut the spread of the virus.
It is a digital world now, and Dr Ram believes online medical check-ups, the delivery of prescriptions and remote working should all be encouraged.