The winter sun market offers the chance of a “turnaround” for the fortunes of the Caribbean tourism industry, according to representatives from tourist boards across the region.

Booking data from Forward Keys suggested significant interest in destinations including the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas for the final quarter of 2020, as well as promising forward bookings for 2021.

Speaking on the latest Travel Weekly Webcast, Carol Hay, chief executive of McKenzie Gayle Ltd, which represents the CTO chapter UK and Europe, said: “For the final quarter of the year, things are picking up. December is looking great – not in comparison to what it was in 2019, but certainly in comparison to how things have looked since April – December is doing well.

“In the final quarter, we should see some turnaround – not to where we want to be, but it will be encouraging for the folks back in the Caribbean who work in the industry.

“All things being equal, we will be looking forward to a very positive 2021 where we should at least get to where we were in 2019, when the Caribbean as a whole did see over 4% growth. We were anticipating another 1-2% growth in 2020, and of course that’s not going to happen, but for 2021, we are hoping we can at least be where we were for 2019. If we could see those figures coming into the Caribbean, we’d be very happy.”

Nadine Rankin, joint chief executive of hotel and destination representation company AMG, said feedback from Caribbean suppliers had been positive for the last quarter of this year and some were seeing “record bookings” for 2021.

She said: “The bookings have started. Some [suppliers] are putting out offers from September onwards but in reality, the bookings are starting in more significant numbers from November onwards.

“The consumer is booking, they do want to travel, there is a lot of pent-up demand.”

She added: “I think the winter isn’t going to be 100% capacity compared with last winter, it can’t be, but it’s going to be very strong in my mind.”

Saint Lucia is among the tourist boards that has revealed its plan for a phased reopening of the country starting on June 4, including asking travellers to provide proof of a negative test, going through temperature screenings, wearing face masks and sticking to social distancing requirements. Further measures will be implemented from July 31.

Patricia Charlery-Leon, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority’s UK & European Director, said: “I think communication is going to be absolutely key – that’s communication from us as tourist boards, the media.

“When flights do come back to the Caribbean, I think there’s a great opportunity to put some good rates out there for the trade because often after a crisis, the trade are the ones who bounce back and travel and share those experiences.”

She added: “While we don’t have big budgets and big economies, we’ve taken this disease really seriously and made sure that we’re protected, and that’s going to fill people with confidence as well.”