Published On: Mon, Jan 11th, 2016

must or bust

Jacob Gelt DekkerOnly in the late 18th and 19th century became coastal areas destinations for relaxation, medicinal baths, and breathing fresh sea air. Ports-of-call remained stops on the way of long trans-oceanic journeys, to refuel and restock. In the 1970's beach holidays became popular for middle-class families; in the '90's, islands and tropical harbors became real destinations, especially in the Caribean and the Pacific.

Governments and administrations of tropical islands had to rethink their economic development strategies. Hampered by long traditions of traffic and trade and lack of vision of political leaders concerning tourism, adaptations came sluggishly, and often, not at all. The culture of hospitality demanded by the new industry met with resistance, or even blunt refusal especially from labor forces, who resented servitude since it related, in the view of some, to slavery.

A less than committed and all-out tourist-product was the result on many Caribbean islands; poor service, lack of security, and staff indifference prevailed and became the standard. With traffic and trade in decline for ports-of-call and replaced by fast point-to-point carriers, in the 21st century, tourism suddenly became the only player in local island economies. Heavy competition was put up by Asian destinations, outperforming Caribbean hospitality in friendliness, service, quality and price.

A drastic change of "corporate culture" of island tourism is a must, or the bust will be inevitable. Some believe that trade of illicit drugs, money laundering, and creating an off-shore rogue enclave in the world is the new and more attractive economic solution. An underground shadow economy is in straight, head-on collision course with the hospitality economy. The latter is losing for the moment.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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