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Caribbean Business News

Caribbean Tourism Rebounds, Jobs Do Not

Author: Bikram Pandey
Last Update: 1:35 PM ET February 20 2011

But in the last five years not a single new hospital with more than 100 beds is built on the island or new schools are developed to prepare its young generation for the challenges of globalized world.

The financial resources that should have been invested in creating more schools, hospitals and investing in alternative energy industries that create higher paying jobs are consistently directed to support these hotels. Most jobs at these resorts pay less than $25 a day, just enough to stay above poverty line.

At the same time the government of Jamaica has dug deeper in debt to support these hotels and become dependent on the tourism industry. Jamaican government debt has ballooned to $11 billion and despite the steady rise in tourism could not save its ailing Air Jamaica.

The situation in Dominican Republic, The Bahamas and the Barbados is not that different.

Dominican Republic now hosts more than 4 million foreign tourists a year compared to 500,000 in 1987 as it attracts the largest number of tourists in the region and the most from Europe.

The sharp rise in tourism was driven by the government’s willingness to let all-inclusive resorts to build larger resorts that create jobs at the low end of the pay scale. Also easy visa regime has attracted tourists from Russia and other Eastern European nations that generally have difficult time traveling to other countries.

Despite a sharp increase in foreign investment in hotels in Dominican Republic, unemployment surged to 19% in 2004 and has now retreated to 15% and stayed at the same level as in 1986 before the tourists arrival boomed.

Jamaican unemployment rate has hovered between 13% and 16% in the last ten years despite the tourists arrivals increasing 50% in the period. Nearly 25% jobs are now in the tourism sector and most of them pay less than $15 a day, below what many locals consider poverty line.

The growth of tourism industry on Dominican Republic and Jamaica has been complex but limited and more balanced development based on education has created better paying jobs in Costa Rica.

A more balanced approach in the economic development may help these island nations to escape the government debt spiral and low paying jobs. Investment in eco-tourism, alternative energy resources, Internet telecommunication and lifting education levels will go a long way in creating sustainable jobs that are better paid.

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