BARBADOS — Despite the catastrophic hurricanes that pummelled several islands last September, the Caribbean has reached a new benchmark, surpassing 30 million tourist visits for the first time ever.
Speaking at the annual Caribbean Tourism Performance Review news conference this morning, Ryan Skeete, acting director of research at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) said that stay-over arrivals were on track for a strong performance during the first-half of 2017, growing by an estimated 4.8%. But growth was curtailed in the second half of the year by the storms, which resulted in a 1.7% drop between July and December.
Despite the slight drop, the region enjoyed an overall increase of 1.7% in 2017 to reach 30.1 million visits, marking the 8th consecutive year of growth (albeit slower than the average global growth rate of 6.7%).
Skeet explained that strong economic performance in the main markets helped spur the region’s performance, with some destinations recording strong double-digit growth (ie. Saint Lucia at +11%, and Belize at +10.8%). The U.S. continued to be the primary market, growing by about 0.5% to reach an estimated 14.9 million visits to the region. Canada, meanwhile, rebounded strongly with a 4.3% increase in arrivals, compared to a decline of 3.1% in 2016. The country’s strong economic performance and increased seat capacity to the region helped support this recovery.
The increase in arrivals was not reflected in hotel occupancy, which fell by 1.2%, according to STR. However, both average daily rate and revenue per available room recorded increases, though slightly.
“Notably, the hotel performance indicators excluded most of the hurricane-impacted destinations at this time, due to the disruption in operations caused by the hurricanes,” said Skeete.
The cruise sector also set a new high of 27 million passengers, 2.4% higher than 2016, despite the hurricanes.
“The cruise passenger performance mirrors the performance of tourist arrivals, as it grew strongly 4.6% – in the first half of 2017, but contracted marginally – by 0.4% – in the second half of the year. Indeed, cruise passenger arrivals fell dramatically in September by some 2%. However, growth resumed in October, which saw a 2% increase,” added Skeete.
The CTO said the economic conditions are expected to be favourable for further growth in 2018, therefore it predicts growth of 2-3% in both stay-over and cruise arrivals.