This week’s travel news

There’s Gold In Them Islands: Caribbean Tourism Worth $12 Billion and Hotel Industry Recovery: As Rooms Fill
Bruce Parkinson,

There’s Gold In Them Islands: Caribbean Tourism Worth $12 Billion
There are few places that equal the Caribbean when it comes to sun, sand and sea pleasures. There’s no place that equals the region for dependence on tourism. A recent impact study found that the Caribbean travel and tourism industry will earn $12 billion this year and account for 1.9 million direct and indirect jobs – or one in every nine jobs in the region. Tourism’s contribution to regional GDP is over 4% directly, but tops 12% on a broader impact measure. For some destinations, the impact is even more profound: tourism is responsible for one in four jobs on the island of Jamaica and 27.7% of the island’s GDP. In a statement delivering the study results, UK-based Oxford Economics said “Our research indicates that travel and tourism play a proportionately stronger role in both GDP and employment creation [in the Caribbean] than in any other comparable region,” As history has shown, such a disproportionately high dependence on tourism can be as precarious as it is profitable, as natural disasters and civil unrest can quickly slow the flow of visitors.

Hotel Industry Recovery: As Rooms Fill, Rates Will Rise
Industry analysts and hoteliers agree that 2009 was the worst year in the history of the hotel business. Not surprisingly, they’re only admitting that now as fortunes appear to be on the rise again — it doesn’t do to preach doom when you’re still trying to sell franchises or attract investors. What that means for travellers is that rate increases are just around the corner. As Business Travel News reported this week, a recent investment conference in New York gave lodging leaders a forum to express their recession experiences. “What happened last year was really the perfect storm,” said Best Western CEO David Kong. “Demand went down substantially, almost 6 percent, and at the same time supply grew by 3.2 percent.” “Corporate business just fell off a cliff,” said Monty Bennett, CEO of upscale hotel owner Ashford Hospitality. “When all these companies cut back all corporate travel, they made their profits by cutting expenses. Now that they’re looking to grow profits, they can’t cut expenses anymore.” The turnaround is underway, with hotels reporting higher occupancy through the first few months of 2010. Rates, which plummeted to very consumer-friendly levels during the recession, have yet to bounce back, but hoteliers believe that’s just a matter of time.

Cruising Canucks: Sea-Based Vacations Are Fastest-Growing Segment
More Canadians are walking the gangplank – and paying for the privilege. A new study reveals that cruises make up the fastest growing segment of Canada’s travel market. Industry researcher PhoCusWright Inc. says cruises fit well with the Canadian appetite for all-inclusive package vacations – even though most cruises don’t include things like alcohol in the price. Over the past couple of years cruises have certainly appealed to Canadians’ appetite for bargains. When many Americans stayed home during the worst of the recession, prices plummeted and less-impacted Canadians happily took their place – Canadian cruisers grew by 5% in 2008 and “a stunning 9% in 2009” during the recession. Another interesting result from the study: 27% of Canadian travellers surveyed said they usually book through traditional travel agencies, compared to just 13%of American travellers. Meanwhile, the cruise industry continues to generate reams of press with product enhancements. Norwegian Cruise Line, which has struggled in recent years, is back in the spotlight with the launch of its largest ship ever, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Epic. Taking the ‘floating resort’ concept to new levels, the ship puts the focus on onboard activities rather than port calls, with a dazzling entertainment line-up and an array of dining opportunities. With behemoths like Epic and Royal Caribbean’s 5,600-passenger Oasis of the Seas, it’s easy to forget you’re on a ship. But that seems to be what a sizable segment of cruisers want. Rather than an opportunity to explore new destinations, many cruisers appear more interested in eating, drinking, tanning by the pool and checking out high-profile entertainment at night. And when it comes to port calls, some of the most popular are the private islands owned by Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America and NCL. These small Caribbean islands are uninhabited until a few thousands cruisers arrive, unmolested by the hawkers and vendors typical of cruise ports. The cruise lines continue to add private island amenities, from private cabanas to water play areas, exhilarating rides to expanded beaches.

Up In The Air: Flying Is Back
After years of almost nothing but bad news coming from the international aviation industry, there’s finally something upbeat to report. In the month of May, both international passenger and freight traffic moved ahead of pre-recession levels. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported an 11.7% increase in passenger traffic and a 34.3% jump in freight demand compared to May 2009.

With airlines closely watching capacity growth, they are filling close to 80% of available seats, a near record level. Now if they could only get corporations to once again start paying 10 times the price of an economy seat for the big seats up front, everything would

By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to as well as sister company,

Photo Credits:,,, Sieto