How dependent is the Turks and Caicos on tourism?
Population: 38,718. Annual visitors in 2019: 1.6 million.
Percentage of GDP linked to tourism in 2019: 70.7.
Decrease in visits in 2020 due to the pandemic: 81%.
I visited the Islands this month and there I had the opportunity to discuss the Covid Islands trip with its Prime Minister, C. Washington Misick.
The 70.7% of GDP linked to tourism spending does not fully include the impact of tourism, he said. It does not include, for example, construction related to tourism.
The point is relevant. It has been 13 years since I last visited the islands and would not have recognized the coastline from Grace Bay to Providenciales. And construction is still going well: I was a guest of Beach Enclave, a company that opened a group of villas during the pandemic, and I visited another Beach Enclave site with even more villas on the way. ‘completion.
A Ritz-Carlton opened in June. And the day after I arrived, Carnival Corp. has pledged to expand the Grand Turk Cruise Center for $ 25 million to improve reception facilities and expand the dock to accommodate larger ships.
The majority of visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands arrive on cruise ships, and stops will not resume at Grand Turk (the only island with a cruise port) until December 1. In August, we recorded our best 90 days of tourism performance. The best in our history, even before Covid. ”
Very surprising news, because it happened in what is traditionally the low season. And, indeed, even though it’s still low season, my flights back and forth were full. Upon departure the airport was crowded beyond capacity – I think the phrase “a hot mess” would be a good description of the scene, with long check-in lines, long security lines and a crowded departure hall. (I have found that Skypass Caribbean’s expedited arrival and departure services, which put you at the front of the lines and include admission to a peaceful VIP lounge on departure, are well worth the $ 145 for the service. , taxes included).
If there is money for capital improvement in government coffers, airport expansion should be high on the priority list.
Premier of the Turks and Caicos C. Washington Misick Photo credit: Anthony Prodis
I asked Misick what he attributed this quick recovery to. “The goal of all our decisions had to be the preservation of life and the preservation of livelihoods,” he began. âThe economy was ignored in the beginning because we thought that without guaranteeing our health the economy would suffer in the long run. And we could take that risk because we had large reserves of liquidity for a small country that we could tap to support people. “
A strict curfew was imposed initially, but like much of the world, the government has tightened and relaxed restrictions as infection rates rise and fall. The prime minister attributed much of the recent success to his aggressive support for vaccinations: 85% of the population has received at least one vaccine, and boosters are already widely available to eligible residents, with no age restrictions.
And immigration officials are serious about demanding that visitors be fully vaccinated, including those who may arrive by cruise ship after the port reopens. Allowances will be given if a person cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (with documentation reviewed by the chief government medical officer), but no exceptions are made for religious considerations or other objections to the vaccines.
Misick also attributes the successful takeover of the islands to a good working relationship between the public and private sectors.
The resorts determined occupancy according to government guidelines, but âall stakeholders worked together,â Misick said. âGenerally speaking, we did not legislate from above. And we’ve made plans for resorts to allow essential staff to keep facilities operational and clean, despite curfews. Likewise, the resort community has done a fantastic job supporting their staff, keeping a lot of them on the payroll. It was a community effort. “
The Prime Minister, moreover, is also an actor in tourism: since he started living in the official residence, he lists his studio on a vacation rental platform.
Despite the apparent resilience of its tourism economy, the pandemic has resurfaced, a long-term problem facing the Turks and Caicos Islands and all tourism-dependent economies. Tourism can be a fragile industry, subject to a series of disruptions in addition to pandemics: hurricanes and other natural disasters, terrorism, political unrest. Although the Turks and Caicos Islands are not likely to experience the latter two directly, they are nonetheless subject to the impact of world events.
As a result, the Prime Minister said, the government is moving forward to diversify its economy, especially with regard to fishing and agri-food.
Overall, the good news from Turks and Caicos is good news for the tourism reset in the wider Caribbean. Granted, some islands are still battling the fallout from Covid, but the Turks and Caicos Islands appear to have cracked the code and proven, if anyone is in doubt, that demand for the Caribbean will come back as strong as ever.