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(Barbados Today) – Caribbean tourism, pummelled by the impact of the coronavirus, may need to move away from mass market tourism as post-COVID-19 may see fewer tourist arrivals, experts have told a webinar on the ailing industry.

Caribbean Development Bank official S. Brian Samuel warned that there may not be a quick rebound in regional tourism, neither long-stay or cruise arrivals. He appeared in a webinar on COVID-19 and Investment in Caribbean Infrastructure, sponsored by CIBC First Caribbean International Bank.

Samuel, the CDB’s overseer of public-private partnerships, said the region was likely to see more high-end visitors as the cost of travel was expected to rise significantly as the world economy was expected to slip into a recession worse than in 2008/09.

Diane Edwards, president of Jamaica’s export promoter, JAMPRO, agreed with Samuels. She noted that the high-end part of the tourism market will continue and the “challenge for hotels will be what protocols will be put in place to ensure their safety”.

The panellist also noted that the Caribbean should continue its push toward major investment in renewable energy as well as building up health care infrastructure.

Stephen C. Beatty, Global Chairman of Infrastructure at accounting giant KPMG, declared the region now has a “huge opportunity to transform how healthcare is delivered”.

He suggested moving away from investing in bricks-and-mortat hospitals and investing significantly in telemedicine and the technology to deliver it efficiently.

The webinar participants were told that the tourism industry has a willing partner in commercial banker CIBC FCIB to help fund its revival.

Despite the bleak forecast for the industry hardest hit by the global pandemic, the bank declared that it was not about to turn its back on tourism.

Adam Carter, CIBC FCIB’s managing director and head of investment banking said that tourism clients have already been reaching out to the bank.

Describing tourism as the “lifeblood” of the Caribbean, Carter said the bank would continue to put “time, effort and capital into the sector. That is not changing”.

The banker said there was a need to improve some of the region’s tourism infrastructure which could be achieved through public/private partnerships. He urged the region “do all to improve its marketability so that when borders do re-open we are one of the first destinations visitors will want to come to”.

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