chapter  3
Global perspectives of Caribbean tourism
ByJerome L. McElroy
Pages 18

Global forces have historically left indelible imprints on small countries. This has been especially true for island societies in the past half century. In the postwar era, their political economy has been largely defined by two worldwide forces: the juggernaut of decolonisation and the global spread of international tourism. In the first case, since 1960 over two dozen islands have achieved full political independence (Central Intelligence Agency 2002). As the terms of trade stagnated for colonial plantation staples, local elites who replaced metropolitan leadership used their newfound autonomy to create tax havens and other non-traditional activities like offshore finance and ship registry (Baldacchino and Milne 2000). Most enduring success was achieved by capitalising on their comparative advantage in recreational amenities. Like hand in glove, the rapid transformation of tourism into the world’s largest industry – accounting for 12, 10, 9 and 8 per cent respectively of global exports, Gross Domestic Product, investment and employment (World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC] 2002) – coincided with the restructuring of island economies away from traditional exports like sugar and copra towards mass tourism. These forces transformed the insular landscape across the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Pacific into the pleasure periphery of North America, Europe and Japan respectively (Turner and Ash 1976).