Published On: Mon, Feb 19th, 2018

The Caribbean welcomed over 30 million tourists in 2017

caribbean-seaThe Caribbean tourism reached another milestone in 2017, surpassing 30 million stayover/tourist visits for the first time and reaching an estimated $37 billion in total visitor spending, according to Ryan Skeete, acting director of research with the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

During the presentation of the Caribbean tourism performance report, Mr. Skeete said the good numbers put by the Caribbean travel industry on the board in the course of 2017 came to pass amid the devastating September hurricanes.

However, the performance in 2017 was primarily supported by sustained economic growth in all of our major source markets, he added.

“Stayover arrivals were on track for a strong performance during the first-half of 2017, growing by an estimated 4.8 percent. However, there was a major slowdown in the second half performance due to the impact of the September hurricanes as tourist visits declined by 1.7 percent,” he explained.

These outcomes resulted in an overall increase of 1.7 percent to reach 30.1 million visits, marking the 8th consecutive year of growth, albeit slower than the average global growth rate of 6.7 percent. The Caribbean market share of global visits in 2017 shrunk by 0.1 percentage points, to register 2.3 percent of the market.

Among the destinations, tourist arrivals showed uneven growth. Several countries reported double-digit increases in 2017 such as Saint Lucia (11 percent), Belize (10.8 percent), and Bermuda (10.3 percent), while the hurricane-impacted countries recorded decreases ranging from -18 percent to -7 percent.

According to the report, the contributing factors to the excellent performances in those countries included greater air access from the source markets to the region and the realization of significant investments, including hotels, to enhance the tourism product.

The report also indicates that among all major Caribbean sub-regions, the U.S. Territories (-7.9 percent), the Dutch Caribbean (-6.6 percent) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) (-3.6 percent) reported declines, while the grouping dubbed Other Caribbean comprising Cancun, Cozumel, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname, which accounts for almost half of all arrivals to the region, recorded an increase of 6.0 percent and Caricom recorded an increase of 1.7 percent.

Most major source markets recorded growth except the South American and Caribbean markets which declined by 6.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively, reflecting weak economic conditions.

“Our major source market, the U.S., grew by approximately 0.5 percent to reach an estimated 14.9 million visits to the region. This performance was attributed to solid economic growth, low unemployment rate and high consumer confidence in the U.S.,” Mr. Skeete went on to say.

Arrivals from the European market totaled 5.8 million and improved by an estimated 6.2 percent, the strongest growth among the main markets, in spite of terrorist attacks in some countries, and the continuing Brexit negotiations and the related uncertainties.

Visits from the Canadian market rebounded in 2017, growing by 4.3 percent compared to a decline of 3.1 percent in 2016. The country’s strong economic performance and increased seat capacity to the region helped support this recovery, acting director Skeete added.

According to the Caribbean tourism performance report, global economic conditions are expected to be favorable in 2018. All of the major economies are projected to grow strongly, oil prices are expected to remain relatively low, and hourly wages are expected to increase again in the US following years of stagnation.

“These factors bode well for tourism in the Caribbean. On the downside, there is rising geopolitical tensions, the persistent threat of major terrorist attacks, and the heightened risk of extreme weather events. Consequently, we are projecting that tourist arrivals will increase between 2 and 3 percent in 2018,” the report concluded.

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