To say we are living in uncertain times is a huge understatement. The world is currently in a turmoil of irony – united in a global battle being fought by isolation. Self-isolating; travel bans; border closures; country-wide shutdowns. Yet, no one is isolated from the economic repercussions inherent in what the World Health Organization has declared a global Pandemic. The novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – has migrated quickly from its Asian epicenter and continues to spread at an unparalleled pace.
The ripple effect could more accurately be called a tsunami, as markets struggle to ride the hourly waves of change just to stay afloat. Here in the islands, the tourism sector is reeling. Scott MacDonald, chief economist for the Caribbean at Smith’s Research and Gradings, reported, “Real GDP growth for the Caribbean was supposed to be 3.7 percent this year, but I think you need to kiss those growth projections goodbye. Maybe 2 percent, maybe lower. It’s hard to quantify this yet. If you get hermetically sealed countries, then that’s going to be a really big blow for the Caribbean.”
Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said his island nation has lost roughly 50,000 cruise ship passengers in recent weeks — a $4 million blow to the economy. Concern now is that such losses could magnify in the coming weeks in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, where hoteliers are reporting significant drops in advance bookings.
But take heart. In the recent past, devasting weather events and killer Cat 5 hurricanes have pummelled the islands but the Caribbean people have proven time and time again how resilient they are in times of trouble. They come together for each other and for the good of their collective nations. Yes, what we’re going through now is an unprecedented and frightening scenario. The fear of the unknown. But eventually this storm too will pass… the world will learn valuable lessons and recover and move on. In the meantime, the Caribbean will continue to share the smiles and warmth and strength they are famous for. Resilience will win out. Every time.
Lorie Lee Steiner