Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Barbados have, since the 1970s, experienced increases, to varying degrees, in tourism. Islands that are old hands in the tourism industry are seeking to maintain or enhance their share of tourism, while those more new to tourism are working to expand tourism in their countries. Before measures are put into place to expand Caribbean tourism, though, countries should determine whether the pros of tourism exceed the cons.
Economic Pros of Tourism
Tourism is a promising means of sound economic development, earning foreign exchange, creating jobs at the local, state and government levels, and providing governments with revenues. Moving away from the cash-crop economy that dominated the Caribbean since colonialism may be conducive to the stability of Caribbean economies. Furthermore, the growth of tourism in Caribbean economies has indirectly sparked the growth of related industries, such as service- and tourism-related enterprises. Aruba's hotel capacity and construction industry, for instance, have grown multi-fold since 1985.
Positive Social Impacts
Proponents of tourism further argue that tourism has led to an increased appreciation for Caribbean culture, increasing internal consciousness of Caribbean culture and celebration of Caribbean indigenous historical sites. Many local arts and crafts trades, for instance, have been made more visible by tourism and have become profitable local industries, due to tourist-related commerce. Historical sites, thanks to tourist interests, have been renovated and better maintained than they otherwise would have been, and local festivals and cultural events have been developed and supported because of heavy tourist participation.
Negative Economic Impact
Caribbean tourism makes Caribbean economies particularly vulnerable to the whims of the outside world: currently, the Caribbean is four times more dependent on tourism than any other region in the world, and this dependence will likely only increase, due to threats to the Caribbean's agricultural, mining and textile industries. Furthermore, critics contend that most inflow of money, due to tourism, goes to foreign investors who own the hotels, communication systems, and transportation systems pertinent to tourism, and that tourism has actually created strong wage divides between menial labor and management workers.
Negative Social Impact
Critics of tourism widely blame it for fostering the development of an unregulated criminal sector, including prostitution and drugs, due to countries' inability to control the influx of goods and people. Furthermore, the influx of luxury goods and services that accompanies increased tourism has caused what many perceive to be an increase in materialism in Caribbean culture. Finally, the concerns of local people are often sidelined for those of the industry: for instance, beaches and lagoons are being destroyed for the sake of building commercial tourist structures, which are more profitable than saving the environment.