by Matt Turner | Travel Agent Central Oct 25, 2018
Earlier this month, at the Caribbean Tourism Organization State of the Tourism Industry Conference at Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island in the Bahamas, secretary general Hugh Riley spoke about the Caribbean as a tourist destination in the wake of last year’s hurricanes.
“It has been a tale of two situations,” Riley said. “On the one hand, we have robust growth in countries that were not affected by last year’s hurricanes. On the other, we have seen dramatic decreases in arrivals to those hit by the storms, although the performances of these countries are steadily improving.”
Of the 22 reporting destinations, 13 registered increases in tourist arrivals during the first half of the year, ranging from 1.7 percent to 18.3, while seven recorded decreases of between a negligible -0.3 percent and 71 percent.
The top performing islands during this period were the Cayman Islands at 15.9 percent, Grenada at 10.7 percent and the Bahamas at 10.2 percent. (In the entire Caribbean, Guyana at 18.3 percent and Belize at 17.1 percent saw the most growth.)
Riley added that the performances of key source markets varied considerably, with some destinations recording strong growth, while others showed declines. For example: From the U.S. market, while Jamaica (8.4 percent), the Dominican Republic (6.3 percent) and 11 other destinations saw growth (six of which by double digits), there was a 54.6 percent decrease in arrivals to Puerto Rico, and Cuba also saw a drastic drop.
Overall, the Caribbean received seven million visits from the U.S. during the first half of this year but, ultimately, it equated to a 15.8 percent decrease when compared to the same period last year.
On the other hand, there was a new record in arrivals from Canada for this time of year, with 2.4 million overnight international tourists, representing a 4.7 percent increase from 2017. Arrivals from Europe also increased, though marginally at 0.3 percent, with three million tourists visiting the Caribbean during the first half of the year.
There was also a marginal decline of 0.5 percent in cruise visits, although there are signs of improvement, Riley said. Of the 23 reporting destinations, 15 saw improvement upon their 2017 performances with Trinidad & Tobago registering an increase of 166 percent, St. Vincent & the Grenadines by 84 percent and Martinique at 54.7 percent.
However, this was countered by declines of nearly 90 percent in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica by 88.4 percent, St. Maarten by 27.5 percent and the U.S. Virgin Islands by 22.5 percent. Puerto Rico, though hurricane-impacted, posted a 1.1 percent increase during the period.
“The region’s competitive advantages of a diverse tourism product and safety and security are still intact,” Riley said.” Destinations are rebuilding, and new tourism products and services are being restored daily in the destinations impacted by last year’s hurricanes.”
He concluded that the CTO’s research department anticipates an overall decline of between three and four percent this year, but predicts a 4.3 percent increase next year. As for cruise, it is projected to grow by five per cent to six percent this year.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.