These challenges are crucial for the future of the Caribbean. In this article, we take a look at opportunities for Caribbean islands. Of course, not all opportunities apply to all the islands. And some islands are already investing in one or several opportunities. Here they are.
The Experience Economy
Caribbean islands should give visitors a unique experience, not just a sea, sand and sun experience but a unique experience economy.This experience should be based on people, their culture, cuisine, music, art and architecture. Some islands have done this successfully based on their Carnival. One good example is the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival, which is a totally different form of offering this experience to visitors, taking place every September. Some other islands have festivals of their own. This is an opportunity to create a unique experience to attract visitors.
Second Homes for the Creative Class
The Caribbean can be the second home for the globally successful. The islands offer a great quality of life that is appealing to the creative class. The presence of this group of entrpeneurs will have a spinoff effect on the islands.
The Film Industry
Film production can become a significant industry in the Caribbean. The weather, the light and the scenery are valuable ingredients, along with Caribbean architecture. And the film industry can use already-existing local talent in areas like music and theatre. Some islands are already having great success in this area — most notably, Puerto Rico.
Higher education is a sector with great potential. Not only are offshore medical schools a growing option, but there are other forms of education like Transnational Education. Many important universities could consider spots in the Caribbean to start a campus. And students will then bring their friends, parents and relatives to visit them — meaning a positive side-benefit of increased tourism.
Conference centres for business and science also offer real opportunities for the Caribbean. Professionals, practitioners and scientists can travel to the islands, combining business and pleasure, work and family time. This opportunity could be combined with transnational education and the experience economy.
Information and Communication Technology
The ICT industry is an opportunity for the region, given the fibre-optic infrastructure of some of the islands. And the quality of life in the region is appealing to many ICT professionals. There is a growing group of ICT professionals like bloggers, designers and online marketers who live mobile lifestyles abroad working for European and North American markets while traveling the world. The Caribbean could be their new home base.
Eco-tourism based on coral reefs and other unique flora and fauna in the region’s national parks is also an opportunity. This is done particularly well by islands like Bonaire, Curacao and Tobago. Dominica is perhaps the best example of an island that promotes eco-tourism in the Caribbean.
The idea is based on the concept of de-stressing in the Caribbean. The Caribbean can be a beacon for people looking for recovery time, refreshment, or re-charging. This could also be combined with eco-tourism.
Healthcare tourism based on niche markets is an opportunity, as the Cayman Islands is currently doing with Health City Cayman Islands. New hospitals could be built with two audiences in mind: locals and health tourists – meaning a better quality of care at home and additional revenue.
The Sports Economy
There are Caribbean baseball, cricket, tennis and football players in professional leagues around the world. Stadiums could be built to invite professional teams to have their spring training on the islands, or to host football teams on their winter breaks. The Caribbean could even host championship events.
A living laboratory for green energy
Aruba and Bonaire have attracted a Dutch research centre to have a research unit on the islands, and the Caribbean could become a living laboratory for work in green energy, especially given the prevalence of solar and wind energy.
The Blue Economy
There are opportunities for the region beyond green. The sea and the sky provide good opportunities, too, for the Blue Economy. Blue goes beyond green – generating energy from the oceans, for example (which Martinique is looking to do), could make even more sense for small islands.
The Caribbean’s weather and climate are ideal for space ports. This has been the case in both French Guiana and Curacao, both of which are going after this opportunity in what is a growing field. This could be combined with transnational education to create a cluster of attendant scientific industries.
Free Online Conference
On 17, 18 and 19 March 2015 these issues will be addressed in a Free online conference on “The Future of the Caribbean”. Do not miss this opportunity. Get your seat for this conference on www.calmera.nl/future-caribbean  and we will keep you informed.
Miguel Goede is a strategist and trend watcher in the Caribbean. He is based in Curaçao and works for governments, corporations and NGO in the region.
Runy Calmera is an economist, consultant, trainer and coach on economic analysis and policy for the 52 small island developing states (SIDS).