The STAR Busi­ness­week looks at what lies ahead for the Caribbean’s big­gest in­dus­try


The Caribbean wel­comed over 30 mil­lion vis­i­tors last year. Sus­tain­ing this growth means keep­ing at the fore­front of in­dus­try trends and tai­lor­ing the re­gional prod­uct to meet de­mand. Here’s what’s set to shape the sec­tor in 2019.


To­day’s trav­eller isn’t just look­ing for a good time, they want to make a dif­fer­ence. Eth­i­cal tourism has risen in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years and the trend is set to con­tinue into 2019 with even greater in­ter­est in sup­port­ing and en­abling lo­cal is­land com­mu­ni­ties.

“Travel com­pa­nies are tak­ing dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to how hol­i­days can be more sus­tain­able in the long term and cre­ate a pos­i­tive im­pact on lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. We can ex­pect to see this trend con­tinue in 2019 and be­yond,” says the As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Travel Agents (ABTA) in its 2019 Travel Trends Re­port.

This can cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties in many ar­eas, from pro­mot­ing hand­made sou­venirs crafted by lo­cal artists to en­cour­ag­ing vis­i­tors to sam­ple lo­cal cui­sine and sup­port the do­mes­tic farm­ing in­dus­try. Small busi­ness own­ers and hote­liers should also see greater tourist traf­fic as vis­i­tors shun generic brands in favour of a more im­pact­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

And eth­i­cal tourism isn’t just about sup­port­ing grass­roots busi­nesses and causes. Fol­low­ing the 2017 hur­ri­canes, there was a notable rise in ‘vol­un­tourism’ whereby vis­i­tors came to the most dev­as­tated is­lands to join lo­cals in mo­bil­is­ing fund­ing drives, re­build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, clear­ing beaches and other much-needed tasks.


Mil­len­ni­als may have dom­i­nated in­dus­try trends in 2018, but 2019 be­longs to the fam­ily. This year ev­ery­one will be in­cluded in va­ca­tion plans — from kids to grand­par­ents and ev­ery­one in be­tween. Cater­ing to a multi-gen­er­a­tional group re­quires a tai­lored ap­proach with plenty of op­tions.

Par­ents trav­el­ling with adult chil­dren is a sub-group to watch in 2019. They may be trav­el­ling for a spe­cial fam­ily event such as a wed­ding, an­niver­sary or re­union, or sim­ply spend­ing time with each other and look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to recharge and re­con­nect.

Multi-gen­er­a­tional travel also co­in­cides with an­other im­por­tant, and grow­ing, niche — ge­neal­ogy tourism. Find­ing your roots and trac­ing your ances­try has be­come even eas­ier with the wide­spread use of ser­vices such as ances­ and DNA test­ing. The Lonely Planet has iden­ti­fied ‘DNA tourism’ as a trend to watch in 2019 as more fam­i­lies travel to ex­plore an­ces­tral home­lands.

For the Caribbean, with its mix of both European and African in­flu­ences, this could sig­nal a rise in di­as­pora vis­i­tors from all over the globe.


Themed travel is a broad cat­e­gory that of­fers a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for tourism op­er­a­tors. No longer con­tent with just loung­ing pool-side, these vis­i­tors plan their trips with a mis­sion in mind, whether ex­plor­ing his­tory and cul­ture or road­trip­ping with foodie friends.

Caribbean cui­sine is pop­u­lar all over the world but there’s no bet­ter place to en­joy it than in an au­then­tic is­land kitchen. Home­made del­i­ca­cies are the ul­ti­mate sou­venir for these tourists, who are pre­pared to travel for unique of­fer­ings and will plan their trips around food fes­ti­vals and tours. In Saint Lu­cia this could spell growth for rum dis­til­leries, “down home” restau­rants and food tour op­er­a­tors. The Rabot Es­tate, Ho­tel Choco­lat’s co­coa plan­ta­tion near Soufriere, has al­ready suc­cess­fully jumped on this trend, of­fer­ing vis­i­tors a pop­u­lar ‘tree to bar’ choco­late-themed tour.

And ex­pect growth in other themed cat­e­gories such as mu­sic and sports as Caribbean coun­tries look to in­crease their pres­ence in both mar­kets with in­ter­na­tion­ally-mar­keted con­certs, car­ni­vals, sports tour­na­ments and games.


As tech­nol­ogy has con­tin­ued to in­fil­trate ev­ery as­pect of our daily lives, it’s im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the reper­cus­sions for tourism stake­hold­ers. Whether pro­vid­ing fast and re­li­able wifi for guests, mar­ket­ing des­ti­na­tions on so­cial me­dia or pro­vid­ing the very lat­est gad­gets on a cruise, tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to hugely im­pact the sec­tor in 2019, par­tic­u­larly as new dis­rup­tions make it to mar­ket such as vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity, big data, fa­cial recog­ni­tion and Ar­tif­i­cal In­tel­li­gence. The great­est up­take of in­no­va­tion has so far been seen in the ser­vices sec­tor with ho­tels, air­ports and air­lines us­ing tech­nol­ogy to stream­line book­ings and fa­cil­i­tate eas­ier travel to and from des­ti­na­tions. Cruise com­pa­nies are also in­vest­ing heav­ily in this area to im­prove cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

On the flip-side, 2019 is also go­ing to see the back­lash of all this dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. With tech­nol­ogy creep­ing into more ar­eas of life, there will be a grow­ing num­ber of vis­i­tors who go on va­ca­tion to un­plug. These trav­ellers will be look­ing for au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences that get them away from their screens, and mak­ing mem­o­ries in real life, build­ing link­ages be­tween this niche and well­ness tourism.


The Global Well­ness In­sti­tute pre­dicts that well­ness tourism will be worth US$919 bil­lion by 2022 when around 1.2 bil­lion well­ness trips will be taken all over the world. This niche is one of the fastest grow­ing mar­kets in tourism and in­cludes a wide va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing spa breaks, yoga re­treats, fit­ness camps, med­i­ta­tion va­ca­tions and hol­i­day detoxes.

In­dus­try group Health and Fit­ness Travel fur­ther iden­ti­fied breaks such as the ‘pain­moon’ (a trip taken af­ter a painful break-up, or when griev­ing), ‘mum­ca­tions’ (for stressed-out moth­ers), ‘sleep per­for­mance re­treat’ (to catch up on sleep) and ‘fer­til­ity trips’ (for cou­ples hop­ing to con­ceive).

All it­er­a­tions of this key niche are ripe for ex­ploita­tion by Caribbean des­ti­na­tions. Given the re­gion’s invit­ing wa­ters, year-round sun­shine and laid­back trop­i­cal charm, it should be a mag­net for tourists seek­ing a ther­a­peu­tic break. Saint Lu­cia, in par­tic­u­lar, has the added ad­van­tage of its vol­canic springs and mud baths which are said to al­le­vi­ate the symp­toms of eczema, arthri­tis, burns and other skin con­di­tions.

Ho­tel Choco­lat ‘s tree-to-bar ex­pe­ri­ence, unique to the Rabot Es­tate, draws on its ex­per­tise as an in­ter­na­tional choco­latier and as a lo­cal grower.The ex­pe­ri­ence starts with a walk through the es­tate’s co­coa groves, se­lect­ing ripe co­coa pods to har­vest from the tree, and ends with mak­ing your own choco­late bar

BodyHol­i­day Saint Lu­cia brings to­gether the idea of en­joy­ing a re­viv­ing trop­i­cal va­ca­tion and in­dulging in time with a com­pan­ion

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