BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — It was a record year for the Caribbean in 2016, which welcomed over one million more visitors than the previous year to reach an impressive 29.3 million.
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), this was the first time Caribbean tourism surpassed 29 million arrivals, once again growing faster than the global average.
“Despite political, security and economic uncertainties and challenges in our main source markets, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 4.2% in 2016, better than the 3.9% overall internationally,” said Hugh Riley, Secretary General of CTO. Riley also noted during his presentation of the Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2016 that visitor expenditure hit a new high as well, growing by an estimated 3.5% to reach US$35.5 billion.
The United States remained the Caribbean’s primary market with an estimated 14.6 million stay-over arrivals, up 3.5% on 2015. However, it was Europe that recorded the highest rate of growth among the main source markets, led by strong increases from Germany (8.2%) and the United Kingdom (4.1%).
“Despite terrorist attacks in some countries, the Brexit referendum in the U.K. and bumpy economic outcomes across continental Europe, arrivals from that market climbed by 11.4% to reach 5.6 million. The strong European performance was evident by the healthy increases of between six and 16.8% in each month, compared to the corresponding month in 2015,” added Riley.
Canada, normally a robust market for the Caribbean, recorded a decrease for the first time since 1994, and only the second contraction since 1982. The 3.3 million arrivals from Canada represented a 3.4% drop when compared to 2015.
Plus, Riley revealed that cruise arrivals grew at a slower pace of 1.3% to approximately 26.3 million, while the hotel sector recorded negative growth, with all hotel indicators contracting, with the exception of the number of available rooms, which grew by just over 1%, according to Smith Travel Research.
So what’s the forecast for 2017? The CTO predicts increases of 2.5% and 3.5% in long-stay arrivals and increases of between 1.5% and 2.5% in cruise passenger arrivals.