Canadian numbers to Caribbean “sluggish” says CTO

BRIDGETOWN — The Canadian market to the Caribbean was “sluggish” in 2019, with only 0.4% growth and 3.4 million tourist visits, according to new stats released today by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

While the increase was minimal, CTO’s acting secretary general Neil Walters noted that Canada was one of only two main markets to have sustained growth to the Caribbean in each of the last three years.

The U.S. market was up 10%, with a record 15.5 million visitors, surprising considering how big of a hit the D.R. took from the U.S. in 2019. The European market was down 1.4% to 5.8 million visitors.

Worldwide the Caribbean saw stayover arrivals climb 4.4% to reach 31.5 million. Walters said that outpaced the international rate of growth of 3.8% reported by the World Tourism Organization.

The strong showing was sparked by robust recovery in the destinations that were affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, he said.

“Overall the destinations most impacted by the hurricanes in 2017 saw some of the highest rates of growth,” said Walters. “Some examples of this were Sint Maarten which experienced growth of 80%, Anguilla (74.9%), the British Virgin Islands (57.3%), Dominica (51.7%), the U.S. Virgin Islands (38.1%) and Puerto Rico increased (31.2%).”

Cruise visits increased by 3.4% to 30.2 million, representing the seventh consecutive year of growth, he added.

Walters cited stats from STR Global, showing that in the hotel sector revenue per available room at year end was US$139.45 up 2.8%. The average daily room rate grew by 5.6% to US$218.82. Room occupancy was down 2.7%, from 65.5% in 2018 to 63.7% last year.

Walters said: “2019 was a great one overall for Caribbean tourism, based not only on the record performance by the region, but also for some individual destinations. These achievements were made despite several challenges such as global economic and political uncertainty and the impact of climate change leading to extreme weather events in some cases.

“As we navigate 2020, concerns remain over the global economic, environmental, political and social uncertainty, including the US presidential election, the impact of climate change and extreme weather events and health threats/issues, especially the coronavirus, and how these could influence our performance.”

He said CTO’s estimates put the growth rate for tourist arrival levels to the Caribbean at between 1% and 2% in 2020, with a similar rate of growth expected for the cruise sector.

In October 2019 the CTO announced it was closing its offices in New York (and, by extension, Canada) and London. The Canadian office closed Dec. 31, 2019.

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