By Paul O’Donnell ● The Dallas Morning News
Nov 26, 2019 Updated Nov 27, 2019
Thousands of U.S. travelers will pack their beach clothes and head to Cancun’s sun-soaked coastal resorts for Thanksgiving and Christmas getaways.
The popular Mexican vacation spot tops the international destinations where Americans plan to spend the holidays, according to Airlines Reporting Corp., which tracks sales of airline tickets. It ranks as the No. 1 destination for both Thanksgiving week and the Christmas-New Year’s period.
And that’s a welcome ending to what’s been a challenging year for the region known as the Mexican Caribbean, where 80% of its economy is reliant on tourism and more than 10,000 new hotel rooms are under construction or planned in the next few years.
It’s had to contend with a triple play of troubles in 2019: Smelly seaweed invaded its typically pristine beaches during the summer months, the Mexican government redirected a $300 million fund previously dedicated to promoting the country’s top sites, and cartel-fueled violence spilled into areas near resort towns to further stoke travelers’ ever-present crime concerns.
In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, the executive director of promotion for the tourism board of Quintana Roo said her organization will spend about $35 million to ensure a steady flow of tourists next year. Lizzie Cole’s job is to tout Cancun and the state’s other popular destinations such as Cozumel, Riviera Maya, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum.
She was in Dallas last week to meet with American Airlines travel planners and agents about a dozen coastal cities she’s in charge of promoting. Some of the region’s key hotel operators came as well.
Before that, Cole put on road shows in Charlotte and Philadelphia. Her message: 19 million people visited the Mexican Caribbean in 2019, including over 5 million who arrived on cruise ships, and she wants them to come back.
“We have a visitor return rate of 52%,” she said. “Most have been here two or three times before. They come back because they found what they were looking for, they feel comfortable and the service they have been receiving is what they expected or even better.”
Major U.S. airlines are crucial to the cause, she said, ticking off a list of new flights being launched or bigger planes replacing smaller ones on existing routes. American Airlines will add a five-day-a-week Cozumel route from Miami. Southwest Airlines is adding new Cancun routes from Dallas, Austin, Nashville, Milwaukee and San Antonio, and a Cozumel flight from Houston.
Despite seaweed woes that Cole acknowledged sent some domestic travelers to the country’s Pacific Coast resorts, the region expects to finish this year with a 1% increase in visitors over last year.
Six out of 10 visitors to Mexico end up in Quintana Roo, a region that hosts about 30,000 destination weddings each year. Besides the U.S., Cole said visitors come from Canada, the UK, Columbia, Spain, France and other parts around the globe.
The U.S. market, which typically accounts for about 4 million visitors, was a little soft this year, she said. She cited the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft as one factor because it forced carriers like American, Southwest and United to operate with reduced capacity, including the cutting of some secondary connections.
Quintana Roo government officials, hotel operators and researchers are hatching an aggressive plan to keep seaweed from taking over its beaches next year, if there’s another algae bloom like the one this year that filled white sand beaches with what Cole described as “mountains of sargassum.”
Cole described the problem as global, stretching from South America to Texas’ Gulf Coast and as far away as Europe. By late summer, Mexico had spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum from its Caribbean beaches.
Government officials mobilized by creating a temporary workforce to attack the complicated problem. Seawood piled up so high on some beaches that turtles were unable to climb it to lay their eggs during the summer nesting season. That also meant the seaweed couldn’t be picked up by trucks because of potential damage to nests.
“It’s beyond just having an ugly beach,” she said.
For next year, the state government ordered two barges that will float offshore to harvest seaweed before it arrives on beaches. The barges cost about $750,000 each.
“We don’t know if we’re going to have this same situation next year, but if we are, we are better prepared to counter that,” she said. “By the end of September, our beaches were clean.”
Luxury tour operator Journey Mexico posts regular updates on the state of sargassum. In a Nov. 15 post, it showed seaweed-free images taken at Riviera Maya and Isla Holbox beaches.
The Yucatan train
Quintana Roo took a $12 million to $13 million hit to its annual promotion budget after the election of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
One of the signature proposals of his campaign was to shift the nation’s tourism budget to building a “Mayan train” to link tourist hot spots and spur development along the Yucatan Peninsula. The original plan for a 948-mile route was scaled back in June in a cost-saving move.
Cole said the train could greatly benefit her region but noted that “there are a lot of indigenous communities against it because it’s going to impact their areas.” Preliminary studies are being done on the train’s sustainability, and she said there is no firm time frame for when it will be built or completed.
“It’s a big, big project,” she said.
Developers aren’t waiting for the train’s arrival. Earlier this year, for example, Palladium Hotel Group invested $280 million and opened a new 1,139-room all-inclusive resort in Costa Mujeres. Cole said there’s talk of a new Waldorf Astoria joining the lineup.
Cole said hotel occupancy rates in Quintana Roo typically run in the 80% range. STR said those rates fell below 70% during the three-month period from April to June when the sargassum invasion received extensive attention.
Hotel construction throughout the Caribbean region was up nearly 17% in October, according to hotel data firm STR. Mexico led with 16,303 rooms under construction.
A safe destination?
Violence linked to cartel turf wars receives massive media attention when it occurs near Mexico’s tourist areas. Some airlines cut back on routes in late 2018 as a result of killings and reports of tourists blacking out after consuming small amounts of alcohol. In April, gunmen burst into a bar about 4 miles from Cancun’s hotel zone and opened fire, killing five and wounding five others.
Cole said her tourism board works continuously to address those fears. She noted that the U.S. State Department has no travel restrictions in place for the Mexican Caribbean.
“We want to make sure we provide transparent information ... so people can see what’s really happening,” she said. “This is a relatively new initiative for our state, and one that many tourist destinations around the world are having to deal with as well.”
In 2019, Quintana Roo’s murder rate is down 15% and Cancun homicides dropped 25%, Cole said.
“Unfortunately, this is the reality of the world at large. There’s no place immune to danger,” she said. “However, the numbers speak for themselves. When you see the continued increase in tourist arrivals, it is clear that our destinations are absolutely safe.”
By late summer, Mexico had spent $17 million to remove over half a million tons of sargassum from its Caribbean beaches. Government officials mobilized by creating a temporary workforce to attack the complicated problem. Seawood piled up so high on some beaches that turtles were unable to climb it to lay their eggs during the summer nesting season. That also meant the seaweed couldn’t be picked up by trucks because of potential damage to nests.
In the Caribbean, tourism employs 2.4 million people and contributes more than $62 billion (15.5%) to GDP (2018) making it the most tourism-reliant region in the world. But the pursuit of tourism-driven economic growth overlooks a significant environmental burden. The global sector is responsible for 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions— 4.5 billion tons of CO2 per year— and for small islands such as Dominica and St. Lucia, where total emissions are a mere drop in the ocean compared to that of large nations, tourism’s contribution to domestic carbon emissions can run as high as 97% and 70% respectively. (Gossling, 2013)
With the high average footprint of tourism-related activities, such as diving classes and jet ski rides, each of which produce about 24 kg of CO2 per tourist, or golf courses which use as much water as 60,000 rural residents and 1,500 kg of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides each year, scientists and economists have suggested that there is a higher cost to the environment from developing tourism over other sectors.
According to a 2018 study reported in the journal, Nature Climate Change, one dollar of travel-related consumption produces a carbon footprint of 1 kg CO2e, which is 25% higher than the global average emissions produced per dollar spent across all sectors. If this formula was applied to the Caribbean it would mean that in 2018, regional tourism contributed 62 billion kg CO2e to global emissions.
A significant proportion of tourism’s carbon footprint is associated with international transport. Aviation and the cruise industry contribute 3-5% of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions, with long haul flights producing 16% of all tourism-related CO2 emissions. Case in point: A round trip flight from New York to Barbados produces 505 kg of CO2 per passenger while a round trip from London Gatwick to Kingston Jamaica produces 985.8 kg of CO2 per passenger— the equivalent of burning 1077 pounds of coal. Comparatively, the average cruise ship passenger was responsible for 820 kg CO2e in emissions in 2017. (Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard)
Hotels are major contributors to global carbon emissions. According to the Hotel Global Decarbonisation Report, the hotel sector has been tasked with reducing absolute carbon emissions by 90% by 2050 in order to keep global warming below the 2-degree threshold agreed upon in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Given their round-the-clock energy consumption, hotels have a higher carbon footprint than other building categories. Laundry facilities, waste disposal and the production of hotel consumables are major carbon emitters.
According to the International Tourism Partnership and Greenview’s Hotel Footprint Tool, the mean carbon footprint per Caribbean hotel room (total greenhouse gas emissions of a hotel divided by the total number of rooms, without factoring in occupancy or floor area) is equivalent to the amount of emissions of 3.4 passenger vehicles per year. A Caribbean hotel room has more than twice the mean carbon footprint of a hotel room in London or Hawaii, almost four times that of Toronto and has a larger footprint than the average room in Thailand or Mexico.
In the Caribbean, hotels tend to source most of their food from imports causing the carbon footprint associated with hotel food to be typically high. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 13 nights in a five-star all-inclusive hotel resort can produce food-related carbon emissions of 205 kg per person and 13 nights in a four-star hotel can produce 91 kg of emissions per person.
Tourists are also directly responsible for a great deal of environmental damage inflicted on their host countries. From natural habitat loss, reduction in biodiversity, over-exploited land and water resources, pollution (land and marine) and coral reef damage, tourism places a great deal of stress on the natural resources on which it depends.
Countries are seeking to curb the environmental impact of tourism by making hotels more green and climate resilient, by integrating eco-tourism into their tourism product and by implementing policies to protect marine and terrestrial resources. But despite these investments, the negative impacts of climate change will be increasingly unavoidable over time.
Climate change will increase the severity of extreme weather events such as droughts, storms and hurricanes, which are likely to negatively impact tourism revenues.
A growing amount of travel will be driven by environmentally conscious decision-making. Travellers will be dissuaded by “flight shame” given the role of aviation in total carbon emissions.
In the years to come, sea level rise will impact coastal tourism infrastructure and development. According to the United Nations, a sea-level rise of one metre would cause more than 29% of major resort properties in the CARICOM region to be partially or fully inundated by water, while 49% would be damaged or destroyed by a combination of sea-level rise and storm surge.
If temperatures rise according to worst-case scenario predictions, scientists predict “the Caribbean alone could generate an extra $22 billion and $46 billion in storm and infrastructure damages and tourism losses by 2050 and 2100.” (Reyer, 2015)
These expenses will be compounded by the social cost of emissions from the carbon intensive tourism sector. According to estimates from the Environmental Defence Fund, the social cost or dollar value of damages from emitting one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is just over $50 per ton. This means that in 2010, the social cost of emissions related damages from Barbados’ tourism sector was $45,250,000. This is more than twice the amount of European tourist expenditures within that market during the first quarter of that year.
While the region as a whole contributes less than 2% to global greenhouse gas emissions, regional emissions on a per capita level are significantly higher than the global average (USAID), with tourism mostly to blame— this should not be neglected simply because aggregate numbers cannot compare to those of large nations.
The relationship of tourism to the environment is complex. Given the sizeable carbon footprint of the industry, the region has been attempting to reduce emissions and environmental impacts while improving the climate resilience of tourism infrastructure, particularly within coastal communities.
Some governments have begun to pre-emptively remove a few tourism eggs from their economic basket and are diversifying across emerging sectors such as blockchain, medical marijuana and renewable energy.
David Jessop, Caribbean Council.
Although the statistics vary, reliable Caribbean and international entities suggest that the region’s sector is now delivering on average directly and indirectly about 40.6% of the Caribbean’s GDP, earned the region in 2018 US$62bn, and employs at least one in 11 of the region’s citizens.
Despite this, little thought has been given to how to future proof the industry as disruptive technologies take their toll, the region’s largely sun, sea and sand high-volume offering becomes subject to multiple global pressures likely to affect traveller sentiment, and international competition increases.
Detailed country by country analysis indicates that away from the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Suriname and Guyana, the contribution tourism makes to almost every other Caribbean economy has become critical to economic stability. For example, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that in 2017 for Antigua, travel and tourism provided 51.8% of the island’s GDP, employed directly and indirectly 46.1% of its workforce, and was the island’s major source of investment. Similar above average figures exist for Aruba, Barbados, and The Bahamas, the OECS states and most overseas territories.
Although projections suggest that tourism’s contribution to global GDP is likely to grow on average by 3.6% per annum over the next decade, similar levels of future Caribbean growth and the region’s long-term pre-eminence as a warm water destination may be much less certain. This is because macro developments affecting travel and tourism globally may damage those industries that fail to understand how changing thinking about travel and the environment may alter a destination’s prospects.
Industry analysts say that the megatrends that determine what visitors want, expect, and where they will go, are changing. Demographics, new ways of thinking about vacations among a globally expanding middle class, and the ability of large numbers of citizens of China, India, Latin America, and Russia to travel widely will, they believe, mean that tomorrow’s tourism is likely to be very different.
Up to now, apart from a few far-sighted Caribbean industry professionals, ministers and former ministers of tourism, government’s approach has been to rely on increasing arrivals numbers, encouraging the hotel and cruise sector to provide future perspective, and then allowing them to drive and largely finance commercial responses to changing visitor requirements.
This may no longer be enough.
Changes taking place on a worldwide basis suggest that Caribbean governments and the industry need to elevate their thinking about positioning and take a more strategic approach.
The Paris based OECD, which brings together thirty-six of the world’s like-minded wealthy nations, has for several years been focussing on long-term trends affecting tourism, and the reforms needed to ensure sustainability has resulted in the production of a detailed assessment of the structural changes it believes will shape the future of tourism globally.
What the OECD concludes is that tourism policy makers need to develop a better understanding of trends and develop a strategic approach which sees their regulatory frameworks and industry governance updated. They also propose the adoption of dynamic policy responses to disruptive developments such as growing consumer concern about levels of aviation and maritime carbon emissions, or the use of artificial intelligence, data gathering, and new monetary instruments that it believes are most likely to take hold.
Its experts suggest that tourism by better understanding the future can also help make a transition to a green economy, become more socially inclusive, and see nations better able to encourage investments that are resource efficient and environmentally responsible.
Its studies indicate that global demographic change will see the nature of visitor demand change and industries around the world adapt. They recommend that members states begin to prepare for tech-oriented newer generations with different aspirations, an increase in ageing travellers who will have special needs, and determine how to respond to visitors from nations with different cultural norms and expectations who will come to represent the bulk of international travellers.
The OECD believes that unregulated tourism growth will increasingly impact on host communities and the natural environment. This it says will require governments to deliver policies that ensure a low-impact low-carbon future for the industry and a require a political response to ‘overtourism’. It argues that technology will radically reshape the industry causing it and governments to have to think carefully about how a destination trades off cost savings and efficiencies against the value of customer experience.
It observes too that as newer generations exert growing influence over international norms, modes of transport, security, free movement across borders, and the environmental impact of travel, such issues will become the subject of intense international debate and behavioural change.
All of which, the OECD suggests, requires a ‘whole of government’ response if tourism is to continue to play a central role in economic development.
What is surprising for ‘the most tourism dependent region in the world’ is that the Caribbean has no well thought through long-term approach of this kind. Nor does it have any discussion of the longer-term issues of the kind that the OECD will consider in mid-December in Vienna when its members will consider tourism as a catalyst for regional development.
The OECD has come close to being a dirty word in the Caribbean in relation to its desire to more closely regulate offshore financial jurisdictions. However, what is saying to its own members about tourism offers a more positive and alternative way to view the institution and is worthy of close study.
Tourism has demonstrated its ability to drive Caribbean growth in ways that spread its benefits far beyond the industry. Despite this, it is still not universally seen as an essential component in future growth, let alone requiring adaptation if it is to meet the needs of a changing global environment.
Those who lead the industry should consider in a regional context all that the OECD is saying about the future of the industry that now dominates and sustains the regional economy. What is lacking in the region is any tourism related vehicle able to analyse future change and prepare the region for the visitor world of tomorrow.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous columns can be found at https://www.caribbean-council.org/research-analysis/
November 22nd, 2019
According to the Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report published by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA), statewide RevPAR increased by 4.3% in October to $200.26, with ADR up by 1.7% to $253.29 and occupancy up by 2.0 percentage points to 79.1 percent.
HTA’s Tourism Research Division issued the report’s findings utilizing data compiled by STR, Inc., which conducts the largest and most comprehensive survey of hotel properties in the Hawaiian Islands.
Through the first ten months of 2019 Hawaii’s hotels saw no change in average room occupancy, at 81.1%. ADR increased by 1.8% from $273.12 in 2018 to $278.07 in 2019 while revpar grew by 1.9% from $221.47 in 2018 to $225.65 in 2019.
In October, Hawai‘i hotel room revenues statewide grew by 3.8 percent to $333.8 million, which is $12.2 million higher than last year. Room demand was up 2.1 percent to 1.3 million rooms, with supply 0.5 percent lower compared to a year ago. Several hotel properties across the state were closed for renovation or had rooms out of service for renovation during October.
Most classes of Hawai‘i hotel properties statewide reported RevPAR gains in October. Luxury Class properties reported RevPAR growth to $349 (+3.8%), with increases in both occupancy (+1.5 percentage points) to 74.2% and ADR at $471 (+1.8%). Midscale & Economy Class hotels reported RevPAR of $121 (-6.2%), with higher occupancy of 79.7 percent (+2.2 percentage points) unable to offset lower ADR at $152 (-8.8%).
Among Hawai‘i’s four island counties, Maui County hotels led the state in RevPAR at $251 (+9.9%), with ADR of $329 (+4.3%) and occupancy of 76.3 percent (+3.9 percentage points) in October.
O‘ahu hotels reported RevPAR growth to $188 (+2.5%) in October, with increases in ADR to $228 (+0.9%) and occupancy of 82.6 percent (+1.3 percentage points).
Hotels on the island of Hawai‘i saw significant increases in RevPAR to $177 (+12.0%), ADR at $239 (+2.6%) and occupancy of 74.1 percent (+6.2 percentage points) in October compared to the same time a year ago. In May 2018, Kīlauea volcano started erupting in lower Puna, which contributed to a downturn in visitors to the island of Hawai‘i in the following months.
Kaua‘i hotels reported lower RevPAR of $177 (-10.3%), ADR at $253 (-2.9%) and occupancy of 69.9 percent (-5.7 percentage points) in October.
Tables of hotel performance statistics, including data presented in the report are available for viewing online at:
About the Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report
The Hawai‘i Hotel Performance Report is produced using hotel survey data compiled by STR, Inc., the largest survey of its kind in Hawai‘i. The survey generally excludes properties with under 20 lodging units, such as small bed and breakfasts, youth hostels, single-family vacation rentals, cottages, individually rented vacation condominiums and sold timeshare units no longer available for hotel use. The data has been weighted both geographically and by class of property to compensate for any over and/or under representation of hotel survey participants by location and type. For October 2019, the survey included 158 properties representing 46,496 rooms, or 86.5 percent of all lodging properties with 20 rooms or more in the Hawaiian Islands, including full service, limited service, and condominium hotels
Macau’s Statistics and Census Service reports that Macau’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 4.5 percent year-on-year in real terms in the third quarter 2019. The decline in GDP in the three months to September 30 widened from the 1.8-percent fall recorded in the second quarter, and marked the third consecutive quarterly economic decline as the slowdown in the city’s gaming industry continued during the period.
This is despite a 10.2% increase in the number of visitors, with the number of same day visitors growing by 23.5% compared to the same three months of 2018 although the number of overnight visitors fell by 1.2% in the 3rd quarter compared with 3rd quarter 2018, falling to 4.79 million visitors.
Macau’s economy shrank in the quarter ended September 30, mainly led by what the census service said was as a “larger decline in exports of services”.
Real exports of gaming services from Macau – a measure of what visiting gamblers contribute to GDP – were down 4.2 percent in value in the third quarter of this year than a year earlier, according to the official data. That was an acceleration from the 0.8 percent year-on-year decline recorded in the second quarter.
Third-quarter exports of gaming services were “dragged by a steeper decrease in VIP gaming business,” the census service noted in its Friday release.
Casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Macau – a measure of casino industry performance – fell by 4.1 percent year-on-year in the three months to September 30. Such GGR was MOP70.79 billion (US$8.78 billion), according to data issued on October 1 by the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
In the third quarter, Macau VIP GGR had declined market wide by 22.5 percent year-on-year, showed data released on October 17 by the city’s government.
In Friday’s written statement, the statistics service also highlighted a 12.4 percent drop in real exports of other tourism services in the third quarter, as the per-capita spending of both overnight and same-day visitors dropped during the period.
The statistics bureau said of the third-quarter economic performance: “Merchandise trade slackened. In spite of a sustained growth in private consumption, imports of goods merely increased by 1.6 percent year-on-year owing to the continued decrease in investment.”
“External demand slowed down, with exports of goods rising slightly by 0.5 percent,” it added.
Investment in fixed assets recorded a slower decrease in the July to September period, according to the official data. Private construction investment slid by 26.3 percent year-on-year following a decline in investment in residential projects and a corresponding drop in property developers’ operating margin, added the statistics service.
Macau’s economy shrank by 3.5 percent year-on-year in real terms in the first three quarters of 2019. While private consumption expenditure and government consumption expenditure rose in year-on-year terms, investment dropped by 22.1 percent. Exports of services during the period fell by 1.9 percent, with exports of gaming services declining by 2.0 percent.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest World Economic Outlook report published last month that it expected Macau’s GDP to fall by 1.3 percent this year and by 1.1 percent in 2020.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica’s hotel room stock is poised to double within 10 years, based on developments slated to come on stream.
Among these, he said, are:
He was speaking with JIS News during the just concluded Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations (CHICOS) Summit at the Secrets Wild Orchid and St. James Resorts in Montego Bay, St. James.
Mr. Bartlett pointed out that the number of tourism entities that will be investing in Jamaica “doesn’t represent a wish list”.
“These are hard prospects. These are people who have already bought lands and are in the process of getting approval through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the other regulatory agencies of Jamaica. So we know that this is going to happen; this is going to be an explosion for us,” he said.
Against this background, Mr. Bartlett called for multi-stakeholder preparations to capitalize on the industry’s anticipated “boom” consequent on, among other things, the projected increase in cruise ship arrivals by 2023.
“For the next budget. I will have to review the 5x5x5 objective. We are now 4.4 million arrivals… [and] by next year we would have passed the five (million mark). When the cruise development comes, which is a whole new game to talk about in terms of what Falmouth will look like in 2022 to 2023, we are expecting to double the arrivals for cruise. We are expecting to see two million arrivals in Falmouth alone,” he further informed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bartlett advised that the CHICOS Summit yielded significant investment opportunities for Jamaica and the rest of the region, noting that a number of contractual arrangements have been inked with regional and international investors.
He said the opportunity afforded Jamaica to successfully host the conference was welcome as “we also had a chance to review our own competitiveness in relation to our Caribbean partners”.
The two-day CHICOS Summit, which concluded on November 15, brought together regional and international investors, operators and decision-makers to discuss possibilities for Caribbean markets, while analyzing trends that can impact investment decisions.
U.S. citizens’ outbound travel from the USA to International Regions grew by 7.6% in the first eight months of 2019
The United States Government’s Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) recently released the figures for U.S. citizens outbound travel from the USA to International Regions for the first eight months of 2019.
U.S. Citizens Outbound International Travel
January - August 2019
Source: ITA: National Travel & Tourism Office
Released: November 2019
The numbers for air traffic both to and from all international regions (on US and foreign flagged carriers) are reported to the NTTO by means of the “U.S. International Air Travel Statistics Report”. For more details of this survey go to
As can be seen: -
The NTTO defines the Caribbean as including the following countries: -
Included in Caribbean for APIS:
U.S. Citizens Outbound International Travel - Total 2019
U.S. Citizens Outbound Travel - Caribbean Share 2019
While the Caribbean saw good growth comparing the first eight months of 2019 with the same eight months of 2018 when compared with January – August 2016 it can be seen that while overall travel by U.S. citizens to international destinations grew by 24.6%, trips by U.S. citizens to the Caribbean grew by just 21.0% with the Caribbean’s share consequently falling from 10.4% in 2016 to 10.1% in 2019. Europe saw a big jump in share between 2016 and 2019, growing from 17.1% in 2016 to 19.2% in 2019.
U.S. Citizens Outbound International Travel:
January - August 2019
A study, undertaken by ForwardKeys, the travel analytics firm, has revealed that despite the recent ravages of hurricane Dorian and other huge storms in the Caribbean, tourism will continue to grow. The results of the study were presented at a Caribbean Tourism Organization-organised news conference at World Travel Market on November 6th.
Forward bookings for the important winter season, 1st November to 31st January are currently 1.6% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year. Currently, bookings from the USA, the most important source market are 3.0% behind but bookings from all the other major source markets are ahead, France 9.8%, the UK 0.9%, Canada 8.2%, Argentina 8.1% and the rest of the world collectively 3.2%. The current leader is the Netherlands, 42.1% ahead.
However, the outlook is not universally positive. Forward bookings to the top destination in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, are currently 14.2% behind and those to the Bahamas and Aruba are 6.4% and 1.4% behind respectively. Encouraging growth is seen from Puerto Rico, 28.0% ahead, but that is really a recovery story, as tourism to the island was hit hard by hurricane Maria in December 2017.
Looking back on the first three quarters of the year, travel to the Caribbean has grown healthily, 5.2% up on the same period in 2018. The star source market has been the USA, with 56% share and 9.0% growth. However, other major origin markets have been mixed, with France down 2.2%, the UK down 4.7% and Argentina down 5.7%. However, Canada has been up 15.3%, Chile up 17.0% and the rest of the world up 1.4%.
This season’s most devastating hurricane, Dorian, which came at the end of August and early September, ravaged the most northerly parts of the Bahamas but left other parts relatively undamaged. The result is that some parts of the country saw a drop in arrivals, where others experienced a significant increase. Travel to Freeport and Marsh Harbour in September fell dramatically, by 50.9% and 67.9% respectively. The impact on Nassau, the capital and the largest airport, was more limited, as arrivals went down by 7.4%. Travel to Georgetown and North Eleuthera was up, 10.6% and 30.7% respectively.
Hurricanes have been a major scourge, affecting travel to the Caribbean in recent years, with some islands left badly damaged. ForwardKeys research shows that recovering from the impact of a major hurricane can take years. So far, it has taken Puerto Rico 15 months to reach 70% of pre-hurricane arrivals and it has taken St Maarten 20 months. In the case of the Bahamas, ForwardKeys expects the recovery to take less time because the initial rebound in both post-hurricane arrivals has been stronger: just one month after the hurricane, the Bahamas has reached 80% of pre-hurricane arrivals.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said: “The Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays, spread over 100,000 square miles of ocean. Because of our unique geography, a hurricane can impact some parts of the country, but leave other parts untouched. That is the case with Hurricane Dorian. The majority of our country remains beautiful and palm-fringed, with unspoiled beaches in several shades of white and pink. We would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”
Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, concluded: “What we have seen in recent years is that the Caribbean is an incredibly popular destination. When some parts of it have been hit with horrendous hurricanes and other issues, tourist did not give up on their desire for a holiday in paradise; they chose other parts of it to visit instead. We saw that syndrome earlier this year, when stories in the US media about tourists who had died in the Dominican Republic, caused bookings to collapse; however, other islands, most notably Jamaica, the Bahamas and Aruba saw a visitor surge.”
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.