GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES OF CARIBBEAN TOURISM
Jerome L. McElroy
Global forces have historically left indelible imprints on small countries. This has been especially true for island societies in the past half century. In the postwar era, their political economy has been largely defined by two worldwide forces: the juggernaut of decolonisation and the global spread of international tourism. In the first case, since 1960 over two dozen islands have achieved full political independence (Central Intelligence Agency 2002). As the terms of trade stagnated for colonial plantation staples, local elites who replaced metropolitan leadership used their new-found autonomy to create tax havens and other nontraditional activities like off-shore finance and ship registry (Baldacchino and Milne 2000). Most enduring success was achieved by capitalizing on their comparative advantage in recreational amenities. Like hand in glove, the rapid transformation of tourism into the world’s largest industry — accounting for 12, 10, 9 and 8 per cent respectively of global exports, Gross Domestic Product, investment and employment (World Travel and Tourism Council 2002) —coincided with the restructuring of island economies away from traditional exports like sugar and copra towards mass tourism. These forces transformed the insular landscape across the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Northern Pacific into the pleasure periphery of North America, Europe and Japan respectively (Turner and Ash 1976).
In the Caribbean, a host of historical and contemporary forces have shaped the gestation of tourism. In contrast to remote Pacific, Indian Ocean and African islands, the geographic proximity of the Antilles to the dominant origin markets in North America (Europe to a lesser extent) has significantly enhanced their low-cost appeal. In addition, centuries of core-periphery commerce have facilitated the islands’ access to foreign capital for hotel investment and to a steady supply of imported food, beverage and luxury gifts essential to satisfy affluent metropolitan vacation demand. Long-term political ties have also played a role and continue to do so since 16 of the 29 islands remain dependencies. The capital base of the tourism industry, the airports and docks and main island roadways, has largely been created by aid finance. More recently, in the late 1970s U.S. policy-makers provided tax incentives for U.S. corporations holding off-shore conventions in the region. Moreover, the 1990 revision of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) increased the duty-free gift allowance of U.S. citizens returning from the Caribbean from US$400-600 and in the U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands) from US$800-1,200 (Coyle 1993). Finally, domestic economic policy has been influential. Island governments, habituated to a colonial tradition of high-volume, low-value-added monocultural exports, provided a receptive pro-market environment with generous tax incentives to establish the similar development of mass tourism. The confluence of all these forces with rising western affluence and the advent of paid vacations, package tours and jet technology combined to create the tropical island getaway as the North American vacation (or cruise) of choice.
Geography also played a part in the spread of tourism across the region. Because of proximity to the affluent U.S. Atlantic seaboard, tourism historically evolved from north to south in four waves. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a small stream of wealthy Americans established tourism in the Greater Antilles, primarily Cuba and Jamaica, and also Bermuda. The take-off into mass tourism took place in the 1950s and 1960s with the appearance of jet travel and the U.S. embargo of Cuba. As a result, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) in the north and Aruba and Barbados in the south became popular international resort destinations (Seward and Spinrad 1982). During the late 1970s and 1980s, a third wave of even more rapid growth washed across the archipelago. In the Greater Antilles, it included the Dominican Republic and the resurgence of Cuba as well as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cayman Islands. A final pulse engulfed the rest of the Lesser Antilles spreading south from the Leeward Islands to the Windward Islands, from St. Maarten and Antigua through Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia to Trinidad and Curacao. The Turks and Caicos Islands represent the most recent mass tourism destination, achieving 100,000 stayover visitors by the late 1990s.
The cyclic pace of this postwar expansion was also affected by a variety of external and internal factors. According to Bell (1993), in the 1950s and 1960s tourism did not attract wholesale government support because it was mainly controlled by external investors using black labor to service affluent whites and appeared to be neo-colonialism in modern guise. It also ‘attracted criticism from a vocal, newly independent intelligentsia, and from some international development agencies, because of sociocultural factors’ (Holder 1993:21). Growth slowed in the early 1970s because of volatility caused by the oil crisis and socialist experiments (e.g., Grenada, Guyana, and Jamaica) in the region. Since then, however, the secular decline in agriculture, continuing instability in mining, the relatively high-cost of manufacturing, and the failure of CARICOM to meet enhanced trade and investment expectations have fostered a more favorable climate for tourism promotion and growth has surged.
At the threshold of the new millennium, the economic significance of tourism has intensified in a region buffeted by the damaging contours of globalisation. These include the export of manufacturing (textiles) jobs to Mexico through NAFTA, the on-going phasing out of banana production for export through the consolidation of the European Union, and a drastic falloff in the U.S. aid since 1990. Most recently they include the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the U.S., the slowdown in global growth, and uncertainty from the threat of another war in the Middle East. In addition, dependence on tourism as the primary growth engine is occurring at a time when the nonsustainability of past mass tourism practice has become apparent. Condominiums, hotels and roadwork on steep hillsides have damaged forests and watersheds, causing erosion, silting over streams and wetlands and polluting lagoons (McElroy and de Albuquerque 1998). Mangrove forests and salt ponds have been destroyed by the placement of large-scale resorts, marinas and infrastructure along shorelines, depleting endemic species, archeological artifacts and reef systems already weakened by sand mining, yacht anchoring and sewage dumping (Wilkinson 1989). In short, just as centuries of deforestation for sugar culture ‘resulted in the environmental devastation of island interiors, …mass tourism itself has had a particularly noticeable direct impact on highly vulnerable coastal environments, such as beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests’ (Weaver 1998:189).
THE CARIBBEAN IN THE WORLD
Pressure to grow Caribbean tourism is also increasing in an era of intensifying global competition. According to Harrison (2001), the past decade has witnessed a decline in traditional European and North American leaders and the rise of LDC destinations. Noteworthy are rising market shares for East Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Some of the most rapid growth is taking place in Eastern European economies in transition and especially in Southeast Asia. In the latter case, growth has been fueled by a combination of four related factors (Hitchcock et al. 1993): (1) the increasing availability of attractive packages and deep discounting, (2) the shift away from more familiar Mediterranean and Aegean destinations toward the more exotic, (3) the rising importance of newly industrialized countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) as origin markets, and (4) aggressive promotion by ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand).
Despite these trends, tourism in the insular Caribbean (excluding Bermuda) has out-performed the industry world-wide, and the region has increased market share. For example, between 1970 and 2000 the number of Caribbean stayover arrivals increased nearly five times from roughly 3.5 million to 17.2 million (CTO 1991, 2002; U.S. Department of Commerce 1993. Average compound growth rose 5.2 per cent per year versus 4.9 per cent for world arrivals over the same period. Annual growth was fastest during the 1980s (5.9%) and slowest during the 1990s (4.4%), perhaps a reflection both of tourism’s maturity as well as of growing international competition. Over the three decades, the insular Caribbean’s share of total stayover arrivals rose slightly from 2.23 per cent in 1970 to 2.46 per cent in 2000.
As a result of a generation of mass tourism development, the Caribbean has become the most tourist-penetrated region in the world. This is indicated by the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) which aggregate direct and indirect effects of visitor spending to determine the industry’s economy-wide impact. According to recent World Travel and Tourism Council Estimates (2001), tourism accounts for roughly 17 per cent of total Caribbean Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in contrast to the next most dependent regions: 12 per cent for North America, Europe and Oceania. Second, tourism accounts for over 21 per cent of all Caribbean capital formation while comparable figures for Oceania (13%) and North America/Europe (10%) are significantly lower. Third, regional tourism accounts for nearly 20 per cent of exports in contrast to 15 per cent for Oceania and 7-8 per cent for North America/Europe. Finally, tourism accounts for roughly 16 per cent of total Caribbean employment compared to 12 per cent or less for the other regions. In addition, theses TSA figures are likely too low since they exclude six islands in the estimates: Bonaire, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and the Turks and Caicos. The World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts that the Caribbean will continue to lead the world in economic importance over the next decade (World Travel and Tourism Council 2002).
A snapshot of the comparative performance of Caribbean destinations (and the region indirectly) in the context of worldwide tourism can be developed by applying the Tourism Penetration Index (TPI) to a subset of small islands across all major oceanic basins. This technique attempts to comprehensively measure tourism development in small islands (roughly one million population or less) with the use of three standard and easily accessible impact indicators: (1) per capita visitor spending to measure economic impact; (2) average daily visitor density [(stayovers X average stay + one-day excursionists) divided by the host population X 365] per 1,000 population to measure socio-cultural impact; and hotel rooms per square kilometer to measure tourism’s impact on the insular landscape and fragile ecology. The advantage of these indicators as constituted in the TPI is that they represent an integrated comprehensive measure of overall tourism development, but because of their highly aggregative nature, they remain rough approximations. As such the TPI cannot account for geographic or seasonal concentration of visitation nor capture a destination’s tourism style or long-term experience with and/or adaptation to tourism (McElroy 2002).
To construct the index, standardized indices based on the three indicators were calculated by taking the value of each variable for each destination, subtracting the minimum of that value for the whole sample, and then dividing the result by the sample maximum minus the sample minimum according to the formula:
(X – Xmin)/(Xmax – Xmin)
The overall TPI scores and destination rankings were then calculated as the unweighted average of the three standardized impact indices (McElroy and de Albuquerque 1998).
The interpretation of the results is based loosely on Butler’s (1980) destination (or product) lifecycle model that argues that tourism is dynamic and successful destinations normally pass through a regular sequence of growth stages that parallel the S-shaped logistic curve. More specifically, the interpretation is informed by an abbreviated three-stage version of the lifecycle comprising low-density, intermediate, and high-density levels or stages (de Albuquerque and McElroy 1992). The over-riding assumption is that Butler’s evolutionary theory provides a useful framework for understanding the general processes and patterns of tourism development (Hovinen 2002).
To operationalise the index, a sample of 47 small islands, with populations of roughly one million or less, and for which relatively complete data were available, was selected. To ensure uniformity, all data were taken from standard sources: the tourism data from the Compendium of Tourism Statistics (WTO, 2002), and the population and area figures from The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001). The resulting sample includes 23 islands in the Caribbean, 14 in the Pacific, five in the Indian Ocean, two in the Atlantic (Bermuda and Cape Verde), two in the Mediterranean (Malta and Cyprus) and Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Three have slightly more than one million inhabitants (Hawaii, Mauritius, and Trinidad), and all are less than 20,000 square kilometers in area except the Solomons.
Table 1 presents the basic data and Table 2 records the three impact variables, their standardized indices and their combined TPI scores and destination rankings. Although highly aggregative and only a rudimentary first approximation, the TPI loosely ranks the 47 islands from most (St. Maarten) to least (Solomons) penetrated. More important than individual destination rankings, however, are the island clusters revealed by the TPI and informed by a sense of the literature and historical observation. The sample divides roughly into three distinct levels of tourism development (least, intermediate, most) that correspond broadly to Butler’s lifecycle trajectory of increasing visitation, facility scale and environmental impact. The Caribbean dominates the most developed group comprising the top six (including Bermuda) in this subsample and 70 per cent of all most developed destinations. The Caribbean also comprises five of the top six in the intermediate group. This strong small-island international showing is noteworthy since four of the region’s tourism leaders (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico), which account for over half of all visitor activity in the Caribbean, were excluded from the analysis because of their large size. On the other hand, the more remote and less developed South Pacific and Indian Ocean destinations dominate the least tourism-penetrated group.
INSERT TABLES 1 AND 2 ABOUT HERE (LANDSCAPE FORMAT)
With some exceptions, the most developed islands define a large slice of the pleasure periphery and include 13 mature destinations with an average per capita visitor spending over $10,000 and an average daily visitor density approaching 160 tourists per 1,000 residents. Visitors on average represent the rough equivalent of a 16 per cent increase in the daily population. Their landscapes are crowded with over 25 rooms per square kilometer. This group includes three clusters: (1) five traditional resort islands comprising Bermuda, British Virgins (BVI), Hawaii, Malta, and U.S. Virgins (USVI); six more recent mass tourism destinations of Aruba, Caymans, Guam, Marianas, St. Maarten, and Turks/Caicos; and (3) two small Dutch Antilles, Saba and St. Eustatius, known for their dive tourism. Although the TPI does capture the heavily built character of Bermuda, Malta and St. Maarten with over 60 rooms per square kilometer, as a land-based indicator it overstates the tourism impact in the BVI and the two tiny Dutch Antilles that cater principally to marine tourism. These latter two should more appropriately be considered intermediate destinations.
As a group, many of these most developed destinations share a relatively unique profile. According to the literature (McElroy and de Albuquerque 1992) and recent CTO data (2002), these mature, affluent areas, excluding Saba and St. Eustatius, are characterized by relatively slow population, visitor, and room growth rates. Their market is by and large dominated by shorter-staying visitors (6.6 nights on average) with strong preference for hotels, large-scale (100+ rooms) facilities, and man-made attractions. They also exhibit the highest levels of hotel occupancy, promotional spending, overseas marketing offices and employment and (for the Caribbean) cruise passenger traffic. As an indicator of their integration into the global tourist economy, they tend to display the lowest degree of seasonality through special year-round packages (e.g., honeymoon weekends, conventions, carnivals, regattas). They also tend to exhibit a relatively high degree of man-made attractions (e.g., casinos, golf courses, conventioneering). Many of these established destinations are among the most frequently cited in the literature for tourism-induced ecosystem damage, marine pollution, over-crowding, host tensions, and declining vacation quality (Jenner and Smith 1993; Beller et al. 1990; Towle 1985).
In addition to their climate and natural assets, these popular resort areas share geographic proximity to their major respective origin markets and long-standing and continuing commercial relationships. Historically, many functioned as colonial nodes in center-periphery trade, and these links have fostered the inflow of postwar hotel and other investment. Moreover, all except Malta are political dependencies or states (e.g., Hawaii) with the benefit of enduring legal and fiscal ties. In several cases this has nourished access to aid-financed transport and communications infrastructure and other advantages conducive to tourism growth. These include for the U.S. Territories (Guam, Marianas, USVI), for example, ease of travel for American visitors (no passports, same language and currency) and special tax and duty-free gift/liquor purchase allowances not available to their politically independent island neighbors.
In contrast to the high-density group, the least developed destinations contain 13 primarily Pacific, Indian and African islands at the early stage of the resort cycle. As a group they average less than $200 in per capita visitor spending, one hotel per square kilometer, and contribute only a one per cent increment to the daily population. Many are considerably larger in population and area than the mature destinations and possess more abundant agricultural and mineral resources and more diversified economics. They cluster into three heterogeneous sub-groups. At the bottom are several low-income remote Pacific (Marshalls, Kiribati, Solomons, Vanuatu) and African (Cape Verde, Comoros) outposts with limited tourism development and characterized by heavy dependence on emigration, remittances, aid and public employment, i.e. the contours of so-called MIRAB societies (Bertram and Watters 1986). Towards the top are four destinations with highly developed tourist regions masked by the TPI: Fiji, Mauritius, New Caledonia and Reunion. In the middle are islands advancing along the cycle: Trinidad experiencing ten per cent stayover growth since the mid-1990’s (CTO 2002) and Samoa achieving increasing international recognition as an ecotourism destination.
Many least developed islands exhibit characteristics of Butler’s early tourism stages: small-scale facilities and infrastructures, limited visitor and room growth, and less penetrated ecosystems and cultures than the mature islands. They tend to spend least on promotion and have the lowest share of hotel rooms in large facilities. They also have the highest ratio of regional inter-island visitors and enjoy the longest average length of visitor stay (11 nights), i.e. up to two weeks in New Caledonia, Kiribati, Réunion, Solomons and Tonga. Their slower progress up the resort cycle stems from a variety of factors. These include geographic isolation and limited infrastructure which have inhibited the expansion of direct air access to metropolitan origin markets. In contrast to the Caribbean, many also possess a less extensive colonial and commercial history with the west which has slowed their socio-economic modernisation and attractiveness for foreign investment. Because of their diversified economies, policy-makers have felt somewhat less pressure to aggressively promote mass tourism. Finally, in some cases (e.g., Comoros, Fiji), political instability has hindered development.
The 21 intermediate destinations are the most dynamic and heterogeneous. Two thirds are Caribbean islands. As a group their average TPI scores fall cleanly between the most and least developed. For example, average per capita visitor spending is approximately $2,200, average daily density is 57 visitors per 1,000 residents, and average rooms per square kilometer is seven. Their average length of visitor stay is 8.6 nights. In many cases, these islands are characterized by very rapid visitor growth and hotel and infrastructure construction. In contrast to the most developed destinations, they tend to have higher rates of seasonality and lower levels of promotional spending. In terms of lifecycle progression, all have considerable tourism experience, display increasing facility scale and socio-environmental impact, and tend to differ in size, economic structure and tourism style. Clustered at the top are five developed Caribbean destinations plus Maldives and Cyprus. Two TPI anomalies are apparent. Bonaire is likely over-ranked because of its emphasis on dive tourism. On the other hand, Bahamas is undoubtedly under-ranked and should more accurately be considered a mature destination because of its high-density concentration of activity in the Freeport-Nassau area. However, its intermediate TPI score results from the archipelago’s large land area and the lack of development in the out islands.
In the middle are a large number of diversified island economies with smaller tourism sectors in various stages of transition from dependence on traditional exports. In the Caribbean, there are St. Lucia and Grenada (bananas) plus St. Kitts/Nevis (sugar), Curacao (petroleum) and the French dependencies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, replacing sugar with banana exports to France. In the Pacific, there are French Polynesia (farming), the MIRAB economy of Cook Islands, heavily dependent on remittances and subsidies from New Zealand, and Palau, a TOURAB (see Apostolopoulos and Gayle 2002) international dive destination in transition from subsistence production and public employment. In the Indian Ocean, there are Maldives (fishing) and Seychelles (tuna). At the bottom are two recent graduates from low-density status, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Montserrat. The former have become increasingly recognized as ecotourism destinations with Dominica promoting itself as the ‘Native Island of the Caribbean’ and encouraging ‘small-scale facilities, local ownership, and an emphasis on environmental, historical and cultural attractions’ (Weaver 2001a: 168). The TPI ranking for Montserrat, a popular North American retirement resort, has declined since 1995 when devastating eruptions of the Soufriere Hills volcano rendered over half the island uninhabitable and spawned widespread emigration.
One of the major weaknesses of the TPI is its propensity to underestimate tourism impacts in larger islands. In the Caribbean case, for example, this excludes all of the Greater Antilles which account for the lion’s share of tourism: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Together in 2000 these four (plus Haiti) accounted for over 50 per cent of the 16.9 million stayovers to the insular Caribbean (excluding Bermuda), over 50 per cent of the $16.4 billion in visitor spending, and nearly 60 per cent of the 207,400 rooms (WTO 2002). However, were they included in the present TPI analysis, they would be positioned in the early low-density stage of the lifecycle with per capita spending between $150 (Cuba) and $625 (Puerto Rico), daily densities between 5 (Cuba) and 15 (Jamaica) visitors per 1,000 population, and an average of one room per square kilometer. All of these destinations, however, have intensely developed tourist zones the aggregative all-island TPI masks: Veradero and Cayo Coco in Cuba, the north Puerto Plata coast in the Dominican Republic, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios in Jamaica, and the Condado area in Puerto Rico.
To remedy this TPI shortcoming, Padilla and McElroy (2003) developed regional indicators for the Dominican Republic, a good test case because it represents one of the fastest growing destinations in the Caribbean and presently accounts for over 17 per cent of all insular stayovers and tourist expenditures. The Dominican Republic also maintains the largest facility infrastructure containing 25 per cent of all insular rooms available. Provisional results indicate sharply different regional stages of tourism development. For example, Punta Cana on the east coast resembles islands at the top end of the lifecycle with average spending of $8,000 per capita and daily visitor densities of over 200 per 1,000 population. The Puerto Plata/Semana region on the north coast resembles intermediate destinations with per capita spending of $2,300 and 60 daily visitors while the two southeast regions (Santo Domingo and La Romana/San Pedro) are similar to least penetrated islands. Analogous results are expected for the other three dominant destinations when regional data becomes available.
To maintain its position in the global tourist economy, the Caribbean will have to devise alternative strategies to traditional mass tourism promotion that emphasize quality over quantity. This is particularly important in a region characterized by relatively high travel costs and room rates, high labor and utility costs, and low profits and income multipliers (Tewarie 2002). As a first approximation, the TPI can function as an early warning signal indirectly identifying threats to sustainability along the three major stages of the resort cycle. For mature destinations, the key challenge is to sustain vacation quality. This will require restoring damage and preventing encroachment in fragile areas, better managing visitation through space and time, and expanding average visitor stay and quality by designing nature, culture and heritage attractions. Bermuda’s experience is instructive. Stagnation and complaints of saturation in the 1980s prompted a long-term policy reassessment that resulted in controls on bed capacity, cruise ships and construction design. Since then tourism has stabilized and natural and heritage amenities have been protected (McElroy 2001).
For highly developed intermediate destinations, the key issue is controlling growth within insular socio-economic and ecosystem absorptive capacities. This will require containing further renewable resource losses, sequencing large developments over long time horizons, and providing residents not only with decision-making participation but also with a viable financial stake in the industry. This last can be achieved by using incentives to foster small-scale, local, labor-intensive businesses, local purchases by hotels/restaurants and developers, and targeting regional tourists whose spending per dollar has greater domestic impact (Sinclair and Voker 1993). A ten per cent increase in the tourism income multiplier maintains economic contribution, with roughly ten per cent fewer visitors and socio-environmental impact. Here the experience of Antigua is useful. Between 1975 and 1990, total visitors doubled twice and more coastal ecosystems and habitats were damaged than in all previous history (de Albuquerque and McElroy 1995). Since 1990 stayover visitors have been volatile and/or flat. In a reverse of the Bermuda case, Antigua’s failure has been largely due to a tradition of environmental neglect, marginal citizen participation, and a persistent policy preference favoring short-term economic gains over long-term environmental stability.
For less developed intermediate and low-density destinations, the key challenge is achieving commercial viability. Ideally this demands a long-term participatory planning process to identify unique assets, to construct infrastructure necessary for sustainability accessing these assets, and to devise a compatible destination identity to promote. This is a time-consuming task but such islands have room to maneuver because of their early position in the resort cycle and their less exploited natural and cultural amenities. They also have the greatest opportunity for developing ecotourism attractions. Some of the more successful examples include the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Chao Creek Terrestrial Reserve on the Belizean mainland, the reknown marine parks in Bonaire and Saba, the expansion of heritage sites in St. Lucia and Cayman Brac, the USVI National Park in St. John. Clearly the best example of a deliberate ecotourism destination is Dominica, promoting a combination of its riverine ecology, volcanic assets and Carib culture (see Weaver, this volume). However, managers must remain constantly vigilant lest success breed pressure for unsustainable visitation at such delicate sites. According to France and Wheeler (1995:68), they
should not be seduced by the myth of green tourism, which may be little more than a growth policy masquerading behind the psuedo respectability of a green mantle. The critical factor in the ‘success’ of any ecotourism development is effective control of numbers.
There are a number of other external and internal challenges the Caribbean must confront to retain its premier position in global tourism. A brief sampling of the more serious deserves mention. First, in the wake of September 11 and the employment losses and eroded profits from deep discounting, the region must ensure adequate transport security infrastructure is in place to avoid further pull-outs like the discontinuation of two British cruise ships to Trinidad and Tobago (Jamaica Gleaner 2003). Second and related, 2002 was one of the worst years in airline history as evidenced by bankruptcy threats from mainland carriers and substantial losses suffered by major regional carriers like Air Jamaica, BWIA and LIAT. Since air transport is the bone marrow of the long-haul tourism typifying the Caribbean, concerted efforts must be made to explore long-term partnerships with both mainland and island airlines to consolidate service and stabilize visitor access to the region.
Third, although their overall economic impact is considerably lower than stayovers, cruise arrivals represent the fastest growing segment of the industry and will soon rival the hotel sector in bed/berth capacity. Because of the security, comfort, high satisfaction and vacation variety they offer, cruise ships have become very competitive with land-based tourism. To maximize their contribution, better partnerships must be established between cruise lines and island governments to reduce the impact of their sewage and other debris on the delicate marine environment (Ocean Conservancy 2002). In addition, their regional impact can be enhanced with greater on-land purchases from island suppliers and more cooperative ‘fly-cruise’ packages that promote overnight hotel stays as is presently underway in Bermuda, Jamaica and elsewhere. Fourth, for their part, regional decision-makers not only need to appreciate the increasing significance of tourism is their policy-making, but also to recognize the long-term value of cooperatively developing uniform region wide promotion, incentive and regulatory regimes to reduce destination competition with foreign (e.g., air, cruise, hotel) suppliers. The recent mounting of the first major Caribbean marketing campaign (‘Life Needs the Caribbean’) is a promising step (Harewood 2002).
Finally, given the importance of visitor safety, crime is perhaps the most systemic internal threat to Caribbean tourism. Periodic reports of cruise ship cancellations because of robberies against passengers and crew underline the problem (Schladen 2002). Although the nexus between crime and tourism is becoming clearer – lucrative targets lacking precaution in unfamiliar surroundings less likely to report and/or return for trial (de Albuquerque and McElroy 1999a)—the relationship is complicated by the increasing significance of the region as a primary narco-traffic route for cocaine transshipment from Colombia to the U.S. (Drug Enforcement Agency 2001). Although violent crime is highest in many of the most mature destinations (de Albuquerque and McElroy 1999b), much is linked to turf wars among rival posses (gangs) as well as the deportation of Caribbean criminals from the metropolis: ‘they leave our islands as high school criminals and return to us as post graduates’ (Commonwealth Secretariat 1997: 105). Whatever the source of rising criminality, in the intermediate run Caribbean leaders must redouble efforts to strengthen enforcement with both local and extra-regional resources, and in the longer run address the more daunting task of creating a more egalitarian tourism in which all social strata share a viable economic stake and the motivation to sustain it.
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