On Saturday 1st February St. LUCIA turned away its first cruise passenger vessel in the 2020 season because some of the passengers on board were I'll. The vessel was subsequently denied entry into other windward island destinations. Fears of the rapidly spreading Coronavirus epidemic, has already reached out to touch our small part of the world. These are troubling signs for island economies...some just recovering from storms and drought and other external challenges.
Over the past decade, the advice to the small Caribbean territories, from international banking and funding agencies, was to focus on our areas of natural advantage, which generally ment tourism. And in 2019 some islands are experiencing the largest increases in the sector ever. The hospitality industry has grown to replace every other sector, even where its linkages to other productive sectors remain weak. So for many islands..all the eggs are in one basket.
The average cruise ship carrie's approximately 3000 passengers and in this height of the tourism season, it is not uncommon to host 3 to 4 ships per day. A boon for the sector, in these times of economic stress however with the current health concern, a nightmare to manage.
Despite claims of preparedness by local authorities, our fragile and neglected systems, particularly in health, seem no match for the existing situation. Still struggling to rebuild population support institutions, stressed from climate change and financial realities. Added to this are the challenges public sector priorities....so, we just never seem to get ahead of the latest economic hurdle.
So this newest virus immediately translates in economic terms to a balancing 'act' of wait and see. .....and hope.