Climate Action and Trade Governance: Prospects for Tourism and Travel in Small Island Developing States

Damage in Barbuda after Hurricane Irma
Damage in Barbuda after Hurricane Irma

2017 will go down as a landmark year given the huge impact of hurricanes on the economic, social and ecological environments in the wider Caribbean. The decimation of several island territories, such as Dominica, Anguilla, Barbuda, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, US and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have taken hundreds of lives and destroyed livelihoods in key sectors like tourism. Take the case of Dominica that had a direct hit from category 5 hurricane Maria on September 18, 2017.1 It is estimated that 35% of the reefs at dive sites in Dominica were damaged, and a month later only 43% of accommodation properties are operational. Hurricane Maria went on to hit Puerto Rico that is now facing a humanitarian crisis.2

The economic losses for the Caribbean are staggering. For instance, the initial estimates from damages by hurricane Irma are larger than the annual GDP of the smaller territories (see figure )3 — about 130% of the GDP for St. Maarten, 250% for St. Martin, 140% for the British Virgin Islands, 37% for Turks and Caicos, 95% for Anguilla, and 15% for Antigua and Barbuda. In contrast, the impact for larger territories like Florida and Cuba are 5.3% and 2.6%, respectively. This data illustrates how vulnerable small island developing states (SIDS) are to the environmental impact of climate change and how quickly these economies can accumulate high debt-to-GDP ratios because of the rebuilding costs from a weather disaster.4

Read more at: OECD Development Matters