Global travel platform Expedia Group has shared the company's latest insight for the Caribbean based on data pertaining to star rated properties in the region. The findings, which analyzed data from resorts and hotels located throughout the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and The Bahamas, reveal that demand for five and four-star classified properties has increased year-over-year in the first three quarters of 2018; furthermore, four-star rated properties are the most popular category across the three island destinations.
Expedia analyzed various data points related to star-rating including growth, booking windows, mobile demand growth and length of stay.
Dominican Republic: Excelling in high-end vacations
According to the latest numbers released by Dominican Republic's central bank, the country's tourism sector is surging after receiving over five million international arrivals from January to September, further solidifying the country's position as the most visited Caribbean destination in the region. This popularity is reaffirmed among five and four-star properties in Dominican Republic, where Expedia recorded that these properties in Dominican Republic grew faster than the overall growth when compared to the same time period the year before, due to new lodging supply and rising demand for luxury lodging.
Moreover, package demand at four-star properties for travelers coming from Spain to Dominican Republic grew more than 380 percent year-over-year, almost 435 percent for travelers coming from Brazil and almost 2,250 percent for travelers coming from Chile.
The top five markets in Dominican Republic for four-star properties demand are: Bavaro, Macao, Uvero Alto, Cabeza de Toro and Puerto Plata.
Expedia data also revealed that booking windows tend to be longer for five and four-star properties, averaging 69 days, while three- and two-star properties averaged 61 days. Similarly, travelers tend to stay longer in Dominican Republic when booking an upscale or luxury vacation; the average length of stay for five-star and four-star hotels is five days.
The travel platform also reports that the all-inclusive category in Dominican Republic continues to grow faster than any other property segment.
Jamaica: Travel packages including four-star hotels increase in popularity
With over three million visitor arrivals in the first three quarters of this year per the Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica's four-star hotels have increased in popularity with travelers who search for packaged deals. Package demand at four-star properties in Jamaica has increased almost nine percent year-over-year from travelers coming from the US.
Additionally, Expedia recorded an increase of US mobile demand to the Caribbean destination with hotels of every rating reporting an increase above ten percent year-over-year.
Similar to Dominican Republic data, upscale stays tend to be longer averaging about four days.
Bahamas: Four-star properties leading the pack
The majority of demand to The Bahamas across Expedia Group sites is attributed to four-star stays, a segment which represents almost 75 percent of the package demand. This star rating is popular among travelers coming from the US, showing an increase of more than 65 percent year-over-year, for Canada, almost 160 percent, and for the UK almost 40 percent increase year-over-year.
Five-star stays represent a little over four percent of the package demand in The Bahamas.
As with the Dominican Republic, booking windows and length of stay averages tend to be longer for travel to upscale and luxury properties in The Bahamas. Five, four and three-star properties all reported booking windows that exceed 60 days. Similarly, these hotel categories averaged stays of four days.
Bahamian EP properties and all-inclusive properties are both growing at similar rates, which is four times more than the overall growth in the Caribbean.
By Amy Hinote - Editor in Chief, VRM Intel Magazine.
Over the last two decades, experienced vacation rental professionals have predicted market performance using a set of economic indicators, including real estate activity, consumer confidence, unemployment, hotel performance, gas prices, international travel behavior, and vacation rental awareness.
The effect of these indicators differs across destinations. What is a positive sign for ski markets can be a negative predictor for southeast beach destinations, and metrics that are positive indicators for destinations reliant on airline traffic can negatively affect drive-to markets. Additionally, in destinations with a major metropolitan market as the top feeder market, indicators perform differently than in drive-to markets whose major feeder markets are more heavily composed of mid-size cities and rural areas.
In the vacation rental industry, we are just beginning to establish definitive correlations between economic conditions and realized performance, but as the vacation rental industry matures, analysts are taking more time to research and create new sets of destination-based predictive economic indicators to adjust pricing and more adequately prepare for the future.
Now that the industry is starting to participate in and utilize integrated comparative data tools, vacation rental managers are beginning to get actual, real-time performance metrics, and several destinations are finding that realized performance during the 2018 summer months didn’t follow predicted trends. Although some vacation rental destinations saw record-breaking performance, other markets, most notably along the Gulf Coast, experienced a disappointing season—leaving destination analysts to wonder: Are predictive indicators holding, or is there a shift in consumer behavior?
For new vacation rental managers, the idea of monitoring economic indicators may also be new, so let’s look at an overview of common predictive sets widely used in the vacation rental sector.
REAL ESTATE MARKET
Vacation rental performance has been closely tied to real estate performance because, historically, destinations go in and out of favor among vacation renters and second-home buyers in parallel fashion. Approaching the 2018 summer season, the real estate boom was in full swing.
However, real estate analysts are already seeing signs that the peak of this cycle occurred in August, as early economic indicators are beginning to show a slowdown:
CONSUMER CONFIDENCE AND UNEMPLOYMENT
According to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, U.S. consumer confidence surged to 133.4 in August, a near 18-year high, as households remained upbeat on the labor market, pointing to strong consumer spending that should help to sustain the economy for the remainder of the year.
For many vacation rental managers, performance over the summer paralleled the index with small declines in June and July, followed by an upswing in August.
“Consumer confidence increased to its highest level since October 2000 (Index, 135.8), following a modest improvement in July,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved further. Expectations, which had declined in June and July, bounced back in August and continue to suggest solid economic growth for the remainder of 2018. Overall, these historically high confidence levels should continue to support healthy consumer spending in the near term.”
Unemployment in the United States fell to 3.9 percent in August 2018, down from 4.4 percent in 2017, 4.9 percent in 2016, and 5.1 percent in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The value for vacation rental managers in looking at hotel data is the age-old question: “Is it travel, or is it us?”
STR Global reported that the U.S. hotel industry showed mixed results in the three key performance metrics during July 2018. In year-over-year comparison with July 2017, the industry posted the following:
Pro Tip: Experienced vacation rental revenue managers take a deeper dive into leisure travel versus business travel and into related individual markets.
Gas prices barely budged through the 2018 summer, with the national average for regular gasoline hovering around $2.85 a gallon since mid-June. That’s down slightly from a high of nearly $3.00 at the end of May, but it’s still about 43 cents a gallon more than drivers paid at this time last year.
However, compared to the 2014 summer when gas prices averaged $3.70, most vacation rental industry analysts looking at drive-to markets do not believe that changes in gas prices had a significant impact on consumer traveler behavior in 2018.
The 2018 impact from changing international travel behavior has two faces: Inbound travel to the U.S., and outbound travel from the U.S.
For destinations reliant on inbound travelers, incoming international arrivals to the U.S. were down 4 percent in the first three quarters of 2017. By comparison, international tourism arrivals worldwide in 2017 were up 7 percent, representing the strongest result in seven years, figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) show. In addition, the UNWTO says Spain is about to replace the United States as the world’s second most popular tourist destination, after France. And according to surveys conducted for the 2018 U.S. News Best Countries Rankings, the United States fell from the fourth best country in the world in 2016, to No. 7 in 2017, and down to No. 8 in 2018.
As a result, in 2018, the U.S. Travel Association launched a “Visit US” coalition with other U.S. industries to reverse declining U.S. competitiveness for international travel dollars.
However, many destinations have few non-U.S. travelers. For these markets, a decrease in international travel is a positive indicator as more U.S. travelers vacation domestically.
Nevertheless, despite a decrease in international travel to the U.S., American travelers are taking more vacations outside of the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), the number of U.S. citizens traveling to international regions increased 9.3 percent from 2016 to 2017. The NTTO reported the top two destinations for U.S. international travelers were Mexico and Canada. Travel to Mexico (31.2 million) was up 9 percent, marking a new record for the fourth straight year. Mexico now holds a 39 percent market share of all U.S. outbound travel. U.S. travel to Canada (13.9 million) was up 10 percent.
VACATION RENTAL AWARENESS
The awareness of vacation rentals as a lodging alternative has increased among consumers. According to Phocuswright’s 2017 study, “A Market Transformed: Private Accommodation in the U.S.,” “In 2015, nearly half of U.S. travelers either rented or considered renting private accommodation, compared to just 35 percent in 2014.”
A recent Booking.com survey showed, “One in three travelers (33 percent) say they’d prefer to stay in a holiday rental (a holiday home or apartment) over a hotel.”
Proponents of OTAs, including Booking, Airbnb, Expedia, and TripAdvisor, often point to the increase in awareness for vacation rentals as their biggest contribution to the industry. David Angotti, in his article, “Long Live the OTAs!” in the spring issue of VRM Intel Magazine, wrote: “The larger a listing site becomes, the more powerful the brand can become and, ultimately, the whole industry benefits . . . The economies of scale are bringing additional awareness for our industry and shifting the supply and demand curve in a way that benefits us all.”
THE FUTURE OF ECONOMIC INDICATORS FOR THE VACATION RENTAL INDUSTRY
Consumer behavior in the U.S. is quickly becoming a tale of two worlds, with economic conditions for inhabitants in major U.S. cities differing greatly from rural residents. In looking at these indicators, professionals in the vacation rental industry will find it increasingly beneficial to analyze economic and behavioral conditions in their feeder markets, rather than relying on macro-U.S. data.
Moreover, a positive indicator for urban markets might be a negative indicator in traditional, drive-to vacation rental markets.
Thankfully, the era of self-reported comparative data is coming to an end and is being replaced with real-time data that is integrated with property management software systems for apples-to-apples comparison. As the vacation rental industry matures, and comparative market data is available on a market basis, the correlation between economic conditions and actual performance will become rapidly clearer. And the best news is that professional managers will not have to wait as new market data platforms are able to pull in data from previous years.
Comparing monthly vacation rental comparative performance metrics for the last three to five years to destination and feeder markets—such as new construction permits, single and multi-family real estate performance, the Consumer Confidence Index, unemployment rates, in-market hotel performance, international travel behavior, and sector awareness—is likely to yield a strong trend pattern for a professional manager that will help to establish a strong set of predictive indicators.
As the vacation rental industry becomes more professionalized and comparative market data is more trusted and utilized, property managers will evolve in measuring how leading economic indicators aid in predicting performance for each individual destination and for specific traveler demographics.
In analyzing trends in the economy and in consumer behavior, the vacation rental industry is maturing rapidly. The most exciting part of being in this industry, at this time and place, is the opportunity as vacation rental professionals—including technology providers, marketers, and property managers—to be the first to identify and measure correlations between these shifts and company performance.
(Forbes Magazine – December 24 2018)
Travelers in 2019 see a series of exciting trends—thanks to changing consumer behavior and an emphasis on wellness. For those wondering what will be in store for next year, here are some of the top predictions shared by industry experts.
Planning a big, extended vacation can be extremely stressful. This is why “travelers are ditching weeklong summer vacations in favor of shorter, more frequent breaks,” said Loes Daniels, Founder of Flightgiftcard and Hotelgift. The rise of “serial short breakers” means more business for local economies, especially when more people opt for staycations in “more unusual accommodation options such as yurts, pods and Airstreams.”
WHAT TO TRY: According to Klook, a world leading travel activities booking platform with more than 800 experts in 16 global offices, there are ways to make a short break (or stay-cation) more meaningful. Try a Backstreet Walking Tour of Kowloon’s Mong Kok district in Hong Kong for an enticing look at the vibrant street markets and local delicacies, or check out the bird parks and butterfly gardens in a Half Day Tour of The Serene Gardens in Kuala Lumpur.
Like it or not, travel business is increasingly driven by a location’s Instagram-ability, according to Daniels. In a survey conducted by UK company Schofields, more than 40% of respondents under 33 consider “Instagrammability” the most important factor in choosing their holiday destination. Whether it is art-driven experiences such as Art Basel or beautiful locations that are snapshot-worthy, 2019 sees more social media-inspired tourism.
WHAT TO TRY: Setouchi Art Triennale 2019—a unique art festival held over a dozen islands in the Seto Inland Sea featuring more than 150 international artists; a trip to the Kintamani Jungle Swing in Bali with stunning landscape; or a Private Photo Shoot Experience in Phuket with your own professional photographer.
Driven by wellness
Wellness tourism is expected to grow more rapidly in the next few years—with the Global Wellness Institute projecting it to grow twice as fast as general tourism and reach $919 billion in 2022 from the $639 billion in 2017. From fitness-centric resorts and hotels with holistic spas to natural immersion getaways, these travel experience are geared to leave you rejuvenated and equipped with the techniques for a better lifestyle.
WHAT TO TRY: Go for a wellness getaway Aloft Miami Aventura, which has everything including weekly music events, pet programming, partnerships with Barry's Boot Camp, specialized crafted cocktails, and elevated pool deck; have an unforgettable trip fishing above the reef, scuba diving and snorkeling along the reef at Alaia Belize; or visit The Mandrake in London's Fitzrovia, which boasts a Spiritual Wellbeing Programme with regular Gong Baths, special guest sessions from Nordic Shamanic Fire Ceremonies, Lucid Dreaming Sleepovers and Arcturus Quantum Heart Activation Healing.
Forget business trips. One of the key rising trends in 2019 is “bleisure” travel, which sees people mixing business with leisure. According to a recent survey by Avis Car Rental, 87% of business travelers say that they are likely to mix business and leisure on the same trip. This is hardly surprising, considering that 92% of respondents admit to doing some work on dedicated leisure vacations, while 56% of travelers with children are likely to include the family on business trips. As a result, “the line between a business trip and a leisure vacation is increasingly blurry,” noted Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert at Avis, with “business travel more often [involving] high-end amenities in desirable locations.”
WHAT TO TRY: Visit the brand new PuXuan Hotel and Spa adjacent to the Forbidden City—centrally located in Beijing’s main commercial and shopping district; or go to the Dolce CampoReal Lisboa—a business hotel-slash-resort that offers 23 event rooms, an 18-hole golf course, plus a nearby equestrian center.
Delta Air Lines has been solidly building up its presence at Boston Logan International airport during the past few years and characterizes Boston as an important focus city in its network. Its growth from the airport is continuing in 2019 as the airline adds flights to key business markets, upping competition with Boston’s largest airline, JetBlue, and other operators at airport.
But even as JetBlue works to compete fiercely, it has faced some headwinds in Boston as Delta has expanded in the market on both leisure and business routes. In order to continue competing effectively with Delta, JetBlue may need to finally solidify plans for trans-Atlantic routes from its second largest base.
Delta continually threatens JetBlue at its Boston stronghold
JetBlue has been building up Boston Logan for more than decade, and the airline represents nearly 30% of the airport’s departing frequencies. The airline has been working to shore up its roster of lucrative corporate customers in the market, and at one point declared that it had contracts with every company of reasonable size in Boston except for one.
Boston Logan International percentage of departing frequencies by airline as of mid-Dec-2018
In the recent past, Boston has been a star performer for JetBlue; during 2Q2017 Boston was the airline’s highest margin producer among its focus cities.
JetBlue Airways system top ten hubs/bases/stations by seats, as of mid-Dec-2018
As JetBlue has worked to shore up corporate share in Boston, Delta has been expanding in the market.
Previously, Delta's approach has been that there are markets outside its core US domestic hubs that are worthy of investment, and during 2017 the airline identified Raleigh-Durham and Boston as focus cities.
Delta Air Lines domestic hubs and focus cities as of late 2017
Delta has recently outlined expansion in 2019 from Boston to Cleveland, Washington National, Newark and Chicago OHare. All those markets are served by JetBlue – and other competitors, including American at National and O’Hare, and United in Cleveland and Newark. Delta is opting to restart flights to National from Boston after a six-year absence.
Delta is also continuing to expand internationally in Boston with its own flights and in conjunction with its JV partners. During 2019 Delta is launching seasonal flights to Lisbon and Edinburgh, KLM is introducing new flights to Amsterdam, and Korean is debuting service to Seoul. Delta already operates its own flights to Amsterdam from Boston, as well as other long haul service to Paris and London Heathrow.
As JetBlue works toward its goals of 200 daily departures from Boston, Delta is 152 planned daily departures in 2019 – by Delta itself and its partners.
JetBlue's reprieve from headwinds in Boston could be brief
JetBlue has experienced some headwinds in Boston during 2018, citing pressure in unit revenues on leisure markets from the airport during 3Q2018 and noting growth from a legacy airline. Some of Delta’s domestic leisure markets from Boston include Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.
JetBlue foresees some easing of competitive capacity in Boston during 1Q2019, but that relief could be short-lived as Delta plans its spool up at the beginning of 2Q2019.
Overall, projections from CAPA and OAG show Logan’s ASK growth should bump up at the end of Mar-2018, just when Delta starts its latest expansion from the airport.
Boston Logan International weekly system ASKs from 2015 through late May-2019
Source: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG
* These values are at least partly predictive up to 6 months from 10-Dec-2018 and may be subject to change.
Pressure from Delta could provoke JetBlue to make a decision on long haul flights
As part of its marketing for Boston, Delta touts that it is the airport’s only global airline – which is correct. JetBlue has marked Boston as a launch pad for possible trans Atlantic flights but has yet to formalise any plans for expansion into long haul markets.
The long haul low cost model in the trans Atlantic market has produced mixed results.
Iceland's WOW Air and Norwegian have experienced challenges as they expanded rapidly. Both airlines have various financial issues, and Icelandair recently opted not to pursue an acquisition of WOW. The ULCC specialist Indigo Partners is now working to become an investor in WOW, a move likely to create a powerful competitor.
WestJet has been operating trans Atlantic operations for a number of years, first with one-stop service with narrowbody jets then with older Boeing 767s. After some teething problems with the widebodies, WestJet constantly stated that its widebody flights were exceeding expectations. The airline is preparing to take delivery of three Boeing 787s for long haul flights in 2019.
JetBlue would operate Airbus A321LRs on potential trans Atlantic flights from Boston, which presumably have a lower operating cost than a widebody and would afford JetBlue an opportunity to capitalise on potential revenue from offering its Mint premium product on the routes.
It's really not whether but when...
There is a growing consensus that it is no longer a question of whether JetBlue will inaugurate trans Atlantic service, but when. It remains to be seen whether those predictions will come to fruition.
JetBlue is working to eliminate USD250 million to USD300 million in structural costs by 2020, so it is evaluating a potential trans Atlantic launch through that lens.
However, with Delta’s growing network breadth in Boston, especially in long haul markets, JetBlue may need to make a decision regarding trans Atlantic service sooner rather than later.
2019 could prove a vital period for Boston's airlines - and its airport
Over the past few years Delta has been in a position to look outside its core hubs to identify opportunities in Raleigh-Durham and Boston that were worthy of return on investment.
In some ways Boston is more of a gamble for Delta, given JetBlue’s commitment to the region. But Delta has one important asset: it size.
Delta inevitably would have done its due diligence on Boston before opting to invest in creating a focus city at the airport and shows no signs of relenting in its plans for expansion at Logan. But its market power in 2019 could create a challenging time for Boston’s largest operators.
Americans are eager to travel, booking trips for 2019 earlier than in years past, according to a new national survey from AARP Travel.
Baby Boomers expect to take 4-5 leisure trips next year—about half will only travel in the U.S. and about half will travel both domestically and abroad. They plan on spending over $6,600 on their 2019 travel.
Of those in the planning phase of their domestic travel, 88% have already selected a destination, an increase from 72% in 2018. For those going abroad, 31% have booked their 2019 trips by September 2018, up from 23% by September of the previous year in 2018 and 17% in 2017, according to the online survey.
Top international destinations include Europe (41%), the Caribbean (20%), and Asia and the Middle East (11%).
The most common kinds of domestic trips expected are summer vacations, weekend getaways, and multi-generational trips. The most population destinations for Americans are unchanged from last year, with the top-mentioned locations once again being Florida (17%), California (11%), New York (5%), Texas (5%), and Las Vegas (5%).
Keeping plugged in
The survey finds more Millennials than Boomers will use all or most of their vacation time (77% versus 62%). But once out of town, the younger generation is more likely to bring work with them (78% versus 59%).
On a related topic, technology keeps many vacationers tethered to their jobs. Boomers are more likely to unplug, with 57% saying they do not think it is important to stay connected to work while away, according to AARP. If they do bring work on vacation with them, the majority will not let it consume more than 10% of their time off, the survey finds.
Technology also plays a role in vacation activity unrelated to work. About 54% of Boomers tend to bring a smartphone on international trips and 92% bring it on domestic vacations, although they’re more likely to use them to take photos than to check email. As for the itch to stay electronically connected when traveling in the U.S., Millennial travelers are more likely than Boomers to say they can’t travel without their phone (71% versus 64%).
Bucket lists and adventures
Boomers tend to travel to get away from the day-to-day routine and spend quality time relaxing with friends and family. While Millennials and GenXers cite the same top motivators, Millennials are more likely to indicate the motivation comes from a desire to go on an adventure or try something new.
The big motivation for international travel? Boomers are more likely to say they are checking things off a Bucket List, while GenXers and Millennials are taking summer vacations or multi-generational trips, the survey shows.
While traveling internationally, about half of all Boomers report interest in authentic/local experiences, specifically eating or touring with locals. Local experiences are less of a focus for domestic travel.
AARP finds Millennials are the most adventurous, with 75% indicating a desire to “live like a local,” (e.g., eating and staying with locals) while traveling.
Other travel trends—and some barriers
Older Americans aren’t as apt to mix business with pleasure as younger generations. Just 26% of working Boomers have extended a business trip to add vacation time in the same location in the past two years and just 17% have plans for doing so in 2019, while 53% of Millennials have done so in the past and 46% plan to in the future.
While Millennials don’t expect to travel as much next year—4.9 trips compared to 2018’s 5.8, with most of the decline coming in domestic travel—Boomers and GenXers appear ready to hit the road. They indicate no such change in travel frequency.
“Skip generation” trips, in which grandparents travel with grandkids and leave the middle generation at home, are already being planned by about 15% of Boomers in 2019.
What keeps people from traveling? In short, work, health and money. Cost is the biggest barrier for all ages (about 40%). For Boomers, 32% say health issues and concerns limit them, while 28% of Millennials and 26% of GenXers cite work responsibilities as factors getting in the way of their travels.
The AARP 15-minute online survey was conducted among 1,724 males and females age 21+ in September 2018. Respondents had taken at least one trip 50 miles or more away from home with a two-night stay in the past two years. They also were users of online travel sites within the past two years and intended to take a personal trip in 2018. Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis, by generation.
AARP Travel Research: 2019 Boomer Travel Trends (PDF)
Annotated Questionnaire (PDF)
David Jessop - Caribbean Council
OVER THE last few weeks, several Caribbean researchers and academics have raised with me the chaotic state of Caribbean tourism statistics and tourism data.
The issue arose because one researcher producing an important study for a major government reviewing its overall development strategy towards the region, contacted me and others to say that they had been unable to access any statistics from the main regional bodies that hold them.
Then when the individual concerned did manage to do so by a roundabout route, they recognized not just the inconsistencies, but the absence, in several cases, of any explanation as to why significant variations were occurring year-on-year.
What emerged from this and subsequent exchanges with others about Caribbean tourism data were two separate but related trends.
The first was that the paucity of reliable Caribbean-generated information in a significant number of nations meant that objective decision-making by governments or the private sector on tourism-related issues, such as competitiveness, taxation, marketing, and investment, was likely to be unreliable.
The second was that external development agencies, including bodies involved in macroeconomic analysis of overall Caribbean economic performance, are developing partly out of frustration new ways to accumulate and analyze Caribbean data for regional and international use.
What was striking was evidence that some nations – not Jamaica – were variously subjecting publication to lengthy bureaucratic scrutiny, handing responsibility to independent agencies, were publishing figures in hard-to-access formats or were simply avoiding publication at all for reasons of maladministration or political expediency. The situation was, one correspondent noted, even worse when it came to reliable expenditure data.
These are matters of some importance, as there are indications that the region’s tourism sector may be performing less well than recent headlines suggest. This month, for example, the World Tourism Barometer, produced by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, indicated that overall arrivals into the Caribbean have so far this year fallen by eight per cent.
All of this may be about to change. The growing availability of big data and more sophisticated algorithms now make it possible to produce indicators in much shorter periods of time using consistent information from multiple non-Caribbean data sources.
Since 2015, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been producing ‘A Week on the Beach’ largely for internal purposes. This is an index of the nominal cost of a one-week beach holiday in 18 small and large Caribbean destinations.
Inspired by the ‘Big Mac Index’, it measures the price of a basket of typical expenditures during a beach holiday based on three-star hotels, taxi fares, beverages, and meals, but does not include air travel costs. Despite some shortcomings, the figures demonstrate that the nominal cost of an average, one-week beach holiday in the Caribbean is consistently higher than on average elsewhere in the world.
The importance of this and its policy implications emerged in a recent webcast, ‘A Week on the Beach’, led by the Trinidadian economist Marla Dukharan.
What, in outline, this revealed was that on average Caribbean three-star hotel costs more than in almost all other beach destinations; the Caribbean is 30 to 50 per cent more expensive than Central America and Mexico; that the Asia Pacific region was still the cheapest region in the world; the average cost of a week in Cuba is comparable to Central America and significantly lower than in other sample Caribbean countries; the number of flights rather than airlines positively impact on competitiveness; the number of rooms a destination has may not be significant; and the overall findings were largely consistent over the four-year period surveyed.
The broadcast, which can be seen on YouTube, indicated that at a staff level, the IMF is now working towards developing a more sophisticated understanding of tourism in ways that will eventually allow the findings to be built into future economic models. To achieve this, they intend making more use of ‘big data’ and are now teaming up with TripAdvisor and others in the industry to utilize their statistics and research to support the development of a more sophisticated analytic process.
The exercise still has shortcomings. For example, a separate methodology is required to value the competitiveness of all-inclusive hotels and cruise ships; an approach is required that can quantify less tangible impacts such as crime; and separate modelling is required to analyze the impact on arrivals of government taxes on aviation.
This new big data-led approach is welcome, particularly if it enables the region and those beyond to understand what is really happening to Caribbean tourism, the likely impact of budgetary decisions, and how the industry relates to wider Caribbean economic performance.
Melanie Reffes, Special to USA TODAY
From Anguilla to St. Maarten, check out and check into elegant new hotels, refurbished luxe resorts and rebranded bargains on the beach.
On the small British isle across the sea from St. Martin, a slew of swanky seaside resorts are reopening in time for the holiday season. Wrapping up post-hurricane renovations, CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa is again available with 91 suites and seven villas on Rendezvous Bay. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the Greek-inspired design has been restored to its pre-storm glory. For golfers, the only course on the island is a par 72 with dramatic vistas from 18 holes. Nightly rates, double occupancy, start at $550.
On Maundays Bay, Belmond Cap Juluca opens on Dec. 15 with 66 rooms, 42 suites, a spa and infinity pool. Dining options include seaside at Pimms, Italian fare at CIP's by Cipriani, Peruvian tapas at Maundays Lounge and seafood at The Cap Shack. Nightly rates, double occupancy including breakfast, start at $725.
Also opening on Dec. 15, Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort is set atop a panoramic bluff reaching down to Meads Bay and Turtle Cove beaches. An island mainstay since 1984, the rebuilt incarnation features elegant rooms and suites, artisanal fare at The Restaurant at Malliouhana and rum and wine tastings at The Sunset Bar. En-suite massages are offered while finishing touches are added to the Auberge Spa opening early next year. Nightly rates start at $795.
Antigua and Barbuda
All gussied up following a whopping $100 million renovation investment, Hodges Bay Resort & Spa opened Dec. 1 on the northeast coast of Antigua. Boutique-size with 79 suites and villas stocked with espresso machines and yoga mats, the resort comes with two pools, Elemental Herbology Spa, tennis courts, three restaurants and the Rum and Single Malt Bar. Alexa Echo, the voice-activated concierge service, is in all the rooms. Breakfast is included in nightly rates that start at $295, double occupancy, with all-inclusive packages available.
Opening in the spring, Royalton Antigua is a sprawling all-inclusive on Deep Bay. From the same playbook that has made the resort popular in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba and St. Lucia, inclusions run the gamut from 24-hour room service and limitless buffets to sports bars and tennis. Nightly rates, double occupancy, start at $400 for a Luxury Junior Suite.
Barbuda, the sister island 27 miles to the north, is tourist-ready after extensive rebuilding following the wrath of Hurricane Irma. Where Princess Diana hid from the paparazzi, the secluded isle measures just 15 miles long and 8 miles wide and is reachable by ferry from Antigua. The first hotel to open post-hurricanes, Barbuda Belle’s eight rustic bungalows sit on a solitary pink sandy beach with one restaurant and Jelly Tree Bar and Grille by the coconut palm at Cedar Tree Point. Daily rates for those seeking the ultimate in privacy start at $890.
The Abidah by Accra opens on Dec. 15 on the south coast. With 44 airy rooms outfitted with grown-up perks like Jacuzzi tubs and his-and-her kimonos, the adults-only resort also hosts the Senses Studio Spa. Overlooking Enterprise Bay and walking distance to the fishing village of Oistins, the new build is near sister property Accra Beach Hotel & Spa and offers a “dine around” option at four restaurants. With a nod to the island’s British heritage, afternoon tea is included in the all-inclusive nightly rates that start at $484, double occupancy.
Opening on Dec. 15 after a $30 million makeover, the all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Punta Cana on Uvero Alto Beach has 816 rooms, an enormous Aquagames Waterpark, 10 restaurants ranging from Japanese hibachi to American diner food, 11 bars, a spa and a casino. Formerly the Sirenis Punta Cana Resort, the rebranded beachfront is family-friendly with a children’s club, two pools and plenty of water sports. Nightly rates for December start at $166.
Also in Punta Cana are the new all-inclusives Grand Memories Punta Cana and Grand Memories Splash, two family-friendly resorts on Bavaro Beach with a combined 525 rooms. Formerly the Memories Splash Resort, the higher-end Grand Memories Punta Cana comes with 24-hour room service while Grand Memories Splash sports seven monster water slides. There’s a “stay at one and play at two” rate, and guests at both have access to the Royalton Punta Cana, which means more restaurants and more bars. Nightly rates in December at Grand Memories Punta Cana start at $502 for a Deluxe Room that accommodates two adults and two kids.
Debuting Dec. 1, Silversands Grenada is the first major resort to open on Grand Anse Beach in 25 years. Catering to luxury-seekers, the tony resort is a newly minted member of Leading Hotels of the World. Anchored by a ginormous infinity pool billed as the “longest in the Caribbean,” the resort includes 43 suites and nine villas affording buyers a shortcut to the Citizenship by Investment program. Dining options include the poolside Grenadian Grill, Asiatique fusing Thai with local spices, and Puro for small-batch rums from Caribbean distilleries. Nightly rates start at $800, double occupancy for a Garden Suite and $2,000 for a Penthouse Suite.
Close to the airport and walking distance to clubs, restaurants and shopping, S Hotel Jamaica opens in early January with nightly rates as low as $229. Away from the bustle of the resort-packed beaches on the northwest coast, the hotel overlooks the less-traveled Doctor’s Cave Beach on Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, recently re-christened Jimmy Cliff Boulevard. With a beachfront pool, Irie Baths and Spa and the Sky Deck Bar and Lounge exclusive to those booked in the Sky Club Suites, the centerpiece is the towering lobby walled with coral stone.
After a multimillion-dollar facelift, Four Seasons Resort Nevis unveils its new look on Dec. 10. A fresh take on an island landmark that opened more than a quarter-century ago, the resort is home to 189 updated rooms and suites and 50 villas. Fronting the west coast with views of neighboring St. Kitts and Nevis Peak, the revamp includes EsQuilina, open for bountiful breakfasts and dinners, and the Crowned Monkey Rum Bar, which takes its name from the mischievous green vervet monkeys that roam the hills. Nightly rates in December start at $425, double occupancy, for a Nevis Peak View Room.
Celebrating a grand reopening on Dec. 14, El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a city landmark. Between the city and the shore on a 2-mile stretch of Isla Verde Beach, a renovation following Hurricane Maria gussied up the rooms, four pools, villas and public spaces. First opened in 1958, the revamped 388-room hotel added the Well & Being Fitness Center with punching bags for workouts on the open-air rooftop. Rooms and suites offer modern touches like floor-to-ceiling windows and sensor-activated air conditioning. Nightly rates start at $429 for a guest room in the Grand Tower.
Other December openings include the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort between El Yunque National Forest and Espíritu Santo River State Preserve, and the 107-room Candelero Beach Resort in Humacao, which is a modern reincarnation of the four-decade-old Wyndham Garden Palmas del Mar. The hotel comes with a pair of golf courses and the largest tennis complex on the island. On the calendar for early next year, The Ritz Carlton, San Juan, Caribe Hilton San Juan and Melia Coco Beach are slated to open on March 1.
St. Maarten and St. Martin
Making its much-awaited comeback since suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort opens its doors on Dec. 15. On the Dutch side of the dual-nation island, the upscale adults-only all-inclusive with 130 suites also comes with three pools, four bars, two restaurants, around-the-clock room service and butlers in the top-tier suites. The resort is so close to the Princess Juliana International Airport that the ritual of watching takeoffs and landings is as much a part of a vacation as a pina colada on the beach. Nightly rates start at $229 per person for a Junior Suite.
In French St. Martin, Grand Case Beach Club is also taking reservations for 48 of 72 rooms, with the remainder reopening next year. Steps from Petite Plage, one of the prettiest sandy swaths on the island, the high-top infinity pool and Sunset Café have been perennial crowd-pleasers. Nightly rates, double occupancy, start at $295 for an Ocean Studio.
Following a top-to-toe restyle, Belmond La Samanna opens Dec. 10 on a mile-long stretch of Baie Longue Beach. Marrying a West Indian vibe with European flair, the resort serves French fare at Trellis, vintage bottles at La Cave Wine Cellar, and a champagne menu at the new glam Beach Bar. There are two pools, tennis courts and La Samanna Spa is hilltop and candlelit. Nightly rates, double occupancy, start at $545.
According to the Washington Post while much work remains, especially in residential areas, Puerto Rico has made great strides toward full recovery in all categories of travel. On December 14, more than a year after the hurricane, El San Juan Hotel will swing open its double doors, ushering in guests and the soft Caribbean breeze. In total 135 hotels — about 75 percent of the lodging stock — are accepting reservations.
By mid-2019, room availability will rise from 11,000 rooms to more than 15,000. Several properties are in the final stages of renovations, including
A few are brand-new to the scene, such as
And two — a JW Marriott in Dorado and the Dreams Resort and Spa in Guanica — are in the pre-construction phase.
Opening dates range from this month to 2020.
Short-term rentals of the Airbnb kind have increased from 7,700 to 8,700. Since eating and playing are as essential as sleeping and showering, travelers can choose among 4,000 restaurants (including 1,885 in San Juan), 190 attractions, 16 casinos and 13 golf courses. And, finally, the nearly 250 beaches along the 272-mile coastline are back to model form, with pearly white sand and baby blue water.
Daily air service has increased from 20 flights two weeks after the hurricane to 110 to 130 flights on 28 airlines. JetBlue returned to pre-Maria frequency in June, six months ahead of schedule.
For cruise ships, the San Juan port opened less than three weeks after the storm; the southern terminal in Ponce started receiving vessels last December. This season, two dozen ships will use the island as their home port, four more than last year. All of this sea activity could set a record: Tourism officials are expecting 1.7 million passengers for the 2018-2019 season, which would surpass the previous bar of 1.5 million cruisers in 2015-2016.
Next year, one of the island’s most anticipated attractions will shake up the Convention District, near Old San Juan. District San Juan will pack an array of entertainment options — urban zip lines, performance venues, hotels, restaurants, bars and a day-night disco — into a five-acre space. Dean described the complex as “L.A. Live! with a Latin feel.”
“A kind of exciting time has come out of the terrible devastation of Hurricane Maria,” he said.
According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Bermuda saw the volume of air arrivals decline by 0.4% in October 2018, falling from 21,538 arrivals in October 2017 to 21,452 arrivals in October 2018. Air arrivals from the USA fell by 2.7%, from 15,696 visitors in October 2017 to 15,271 visitors in October 2018. Cruise arrivals grew by 89.9% however, from 34,988 cruise visitors in October 2017 to 66,429 cruise visitors in October 2018.
Through the first ten months of 2018 Bermuda saw a 5.4% increase in the volume of air arrivals, growing from 235,962 arrivals in the first ten months of 2017 to 248,783 arrivals in the same ten months of 2018. Arrivals from the USA increased by 9.0% in the first ten months of 2018, growing from 174,737 arrivals in 2017 to 190,473 arrivals in the same ten months of 2018. The number of cruise visitors increased by 11.6% in the first ten months of 2018, growing from 410,285 cruise visitors in 2017 to 457,752 cruise visitors in 2018.
According to the Jamaica Tourist Board, Jamaica saw the volume of stopover arrivals increase by 3.3% in October 2018, growing from 157,380 arrivals in October 2017 to 162,552 arrivals in October 2018. Stopover arrivals from the USA grew by 8.5%, from 97,684 visitors in October 2017 to 106,020 visitors in October 2018. Cruise arrivals decreased by 18.7%, from 150,076 cruise visitors in October 2017 to 121,975 cruise visitors in October 2018.
Through the first ten months of 2018 Jamaica saw a 5.3% increase in the volume of stopover arrivals, growing from 1,914,053 stopover arrivals in the first ten months of 2017 to 2,015,034 arrivals in the same ten months of 2018. Arrivals from the USA increased by 7.8% in the first ten months of 2018, growing from 1,238,685 arrivals in 2017 to 1,335,153 arrivals in the same ten months of 2018. The number of cruise visitors decreased by 2.3% in the first ten months of 2018, falling from 1,480,419 cruise visitors in 2017 to 1,446,038 cruise visitors in 2018.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.