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Is the Caribbean Getting a Little Too Crowded?

Where: Various Locations, Caribbean
August 28, 2013 at 10:56 AM | by | Comments (4)

Caribbean properties saw their numbers go up last year, and optimism stemming from that growth in profits is now attracting developers who believe the downturn in tourism might be a thing of the past for the tropics.

On the surface, this news is great to hear. If you’ve been to any of the Caribbean islands over the past couple years, the lack of visitors was definitely obvious, and for islands whose sole income is tourism, it was a sad sight to see. We also want hotels to succeed and be profitable, of course, because if they aren’t, we’re pretty much out of a job!

But there is another side to this coin that pertains to the industry as a whole, and it really boils down to one logical question: Don’t people go to the islands because they are remote? We think it’s reasonable to assume that as resort development on an island increases, the natural beauty and local culture in turn decrease. That’s sad on a number of levels.

We know some people travel for the bragging rights – to be able to say they went to Trinidad or St. Barths – but a majority of travelers probably pick places because of the beauty, culture, and opportunities. And it is easy to see how those things – especially culture and natural landscape – have suffered at the hand of developers. Take Nassau for example, or Punta Cana. And for those that remember what it looked like before the highway was built, Cabo is a great before/after case study. Cancun is another. (Yes, we know those latter two aren't islands, but the same principle applies).

So while you might be excited to hear that your favorite hotel brand is building a property on XYZ, does the development of the islands excite you overall? If you heard that Island ABC was getting a bunch of new resorts, would that make you want to go there, or make you want to stay away?

We get very caught up in the anticipation that surrounds a new property, but we think it’s important to sometimes take a look at the bigger picture. Is Caribbean development a case of less is more? Drop us your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

[Photo: travelagentcentral.com]

Comments (4)

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Room for all sorts

If you take a good look at most Carib islands, you have at least two sections. The busy, capital-centered section where there are many resorts which cater to travelers who want access to local restaurants, shopping and nightlife. They want to "see" what's going on and be able to get there pretty easily.
Then there's the other hotels/inns on the "other side". Those are your off-the-beaten path places that are B&Bs, motels, beach shacks and the like. They attract a different, but loyal clientele. IMO, there's room for both.
Not everyone goes to the Caribbean and wants to stay in a thatched hut. They go for the beaches and sand they can't get at home--say, North Dakota. And they want a nice hotel to boot because well, they're splurging, often on honeymoons, destination weddings and the like.
There's more than one kind of Carib traveler and hotel and the growth of new resorts brings jobs to the islands and THAT is truly important for their economy, which I'm happy to support.

Re: Room for all sorts

Nice thoughts and analysis Chanize. I tend to agree with you for the most part, but my point is, wouldn't the beach that the person from ND goes to be  a lot better if there wasn't a hotel next door? It just seems like, eventually, space will run out on an island. An island like Anguilla does a nice job keeping it spread out and low key, but is that going to be the case in 20 years? It's just a shame to see places like Cancun and the Cabo harbor now and think to what they must have looked like before it was developed to death.

Ed via Facebook

As always, Will, a thought-provoking post. My take on this issue is, (1) When you ask, "Don't people go to the islands because they are remote?" the answer may not necessarily be "yes." I've seen plenty of people go a little stir-crazy at quiet resorts that respected the silence and the native vegetation that nature put there. Where's the casino? What, no Simon Sez at the pool? This is why so many of the visitors to the Caribbean choose large, bustling resorts. They want to party, not to wax contemplative.
(2) That said, there is a growing interest in the islands themselves -- the terrain, the flora and fauna, the cultures, etc. The strength of this recent explosion of interest in the island beyond the resort's security gates can only be good for the islands, insofar as it lends support to preservationists' efforts to protect reefs, forests, indigenous art forms, and so on. Therefore, the establishment of an eco-lodge that gets a lot of money for a small number of guests -- and thus encourages the local government to turn down requests for a high-rise next door -- may be good for the physical and cultural environment of that country.

Ed via Facebook

But this raises two other issues that I would prefer not to think about: (3) One of these issues is a subject that's explored in "The Happiness Project," a book whose author I profiled for a magazine. Does greater prosperity (on an island or anywhere else), in fact, lead to greater happiness? (4) The other issue is this: Doesn't airline travel lead inevitably to the depletion of natural resources, from stable climates to the planet's finite reserves of petroleum.  

I'll stick my head back in the sand now.

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