Tourism is a means of economic development in the Caribbean. The industry brings in foreign currency, provides revenue for local governments and jobs for the people. On the surface, it seems that there are many advantages to tourism in the Caribbean. However there is a dark side, in which the negative impacts outweigh the benefits. Lacking control over the influx of goods and people, the region experiences many disadvantages from the booming tourism industry.
Caribbean cruise waterjet image by Pierrette Guertin from Fotolia.com
Perhaps the biggest disadvantages to tourism in the Caribbean are the environmental consequences. The ecosystem is under constant strain due to the overwhelming consumption of electricity, water and seafood. Beaches and lagoons that were once pristine are being destroyed by pollution and overuse. Sand is continually stripped away from coastlines to make room for new construction. As more people gravitate toward the beaches, coastal development continues at an ever-increasing rate, contributing to global warming. Waste from cruise ships threatens the ecosystem as it flows on currents through the Caribbean Sea, effecting aquatic life. Ultimately, global warming from pollution and rapid development will contribute to rising sea levels which would destroy the coastlines and the industry on which the region has become reliant.
During the colonial period, the region's economy was based on the export of cash crops. From 1978 to 1988 tourism in the Caribbean rose 52.2 per cent. Today, tourism is the basis of the economy, making the Caribbean "four times more dependent on tourism than any other region in the world," according to the TransAfrica Forum. Tourism in the Caribbean is large enough to threaten the region's agriculture, mining and textile industries. The overwhelming dependence on tourism puts the Caribbean at a disadvantage with the threat of global warming and other natural disasters. With 2.4 million jobs at stake, a breakdown in the tourism industry would leave the region in ruins.
Although tourism makes up 15 per cent of the gross domestic product in the Caribbean, distribution of wealth to the islands is low, often seeing misdistribution of resources to the resorts. Foreign investors such as hotel owners and owners of communication and transportation systems intercept money from the industry before it reaches the people. Indigenous people working outside the tourism industry experience a wage divide without access to foreign currency. Economic disadvantages of tourism in the Caribbean affect both social and political causes.
Social and Political
Working conditions in the Caribbean are not closely monitored, leading to the exploitation of workers. Labor divides see woman and indigenous people working low-paying, low-skill service jobs. Due to the overwhelming interest in foreign investments, concerns of the local people often take a back seat to the demands of the tourism industry, weakening the local political voice. Drugs and prostitution run rampant, with the tourism industry largely to blame. The lack of control over goods and services is affecting "the moral and social fabric of the Caribbean," notes the TransAfrica Forum.