Sunshine, warm water and miles of sandy beaches are just some of the reasons tens of millions of people visited the Caribbean in 2009. The area has more than 7,000 islands, cays and reefs that are grouped into 27 sovereign nations and dependent territories. Tourism is the region's largest industry.
One of the greatest positive effects of tourism in the Caribbean is the economic boost that islands receive from this industry. In 2004, tourism brought in £14.0 billion in revenue for this geographic region. The area's other primary industries--sugar and bananas--have suffered significant losses due to increased competition from globalisation, making tourism even more important to the Caribbean.
Although the Caribbean region has less than 1 per cent of the world's population, it receives more than 3 per cent of the tourist arrivals globally. This results in direct economic impact, as well as indirect economic benefits, including increased gross domestic product, or GDP, business creation, employment opportunities, investment in the region and governmental tax revenue.
The billions of dollars that flood into the Caribbean each year, thanks to tourism, is spent partly on improving infrastructure in this region. Infrastructure improvements include roadways, seaports, airports, bridges, utilities, emergency services and facilities, and more. Although some tourists would travel to a destination primitive in nature, most are looking for a level of infrastructure at least similar to what's available at home. This improved infrastructure not only benefits the tourists, but also the region's permanent residents as well.
Indirect infrastructure improvements, which occur due to tourists, include schools. These are a significant benefit to residents. As businesses need more educated workers for companies and as governments realise a primary method of reducing crime rates is through education, more schools are being built throughout the Caribbean. As an example of improved infrastructure benefiting residents, the literacy rate in the Netherlands Antilles is more than 95 per cent and the five small islands have 10 hospitals.
Environmental preservation as a result of tourism may seem counterintuitive. In the Caribbean, however, it's a reality. One of the region's biggest tourist draws is its natural beauty. To enhance this tourist attraction, environmental protection has become a priority for many Caribbean destinations. Looking at the small island of St. Lucia, World Resources Institute notes that reef-specific tourism alone is estimated at £59 million per year. For this reason, many Caribbean locations have measures protecting coral reefs, reducing beach erosion and instituting stricter waste laws. As a result, these areas become more popular tourist destinations and the environment is protected for generations to come.