The Caribbean tourism sector is projected to record strong growth in 2019 on the heels of a stronger-than-expected performance last year.
In his annual Caribbean Tourism Performance Review news conference, Ryan Skeete, acting director of research of The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), said he is forecasting 6-7% growth this year, continuing an upward trend which began last September.
Skeete expects the growth as the damaged infrastructure in the hurricane-impacted destinations returns to capacity.
He also projected that cruise arrivals should expand by a 4-5%.
The CTO’s report of “a robust” 9.8% growth during the September to December period last year represents a significant turnaround from the previous eight months of decline.
“Even the destinations that were severely impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, despite registering overall double-digit declines last year, experienced a significant turnaround during the last four months, registering triple-digit increases during this period,” Skeete told the briefing, which was streamed ‘live’ to an international audience.
The 29.9 million tourist visits in 2018 represented the second highest number of visitors to the Carib-bean on record, surpassed only by the 30.6 million who visited in 2017. And while this represented a 2.3% decline overall, it was better that the anticipated 3-4% fall-off.
Canada was reportedly the strongest performing market – up by 5.7% to 3.9 million visits. The intra-Caribbean market had its best performance ever, reaching two million visitors, while South America delivered 1.9 million tourist visits, up by 3.6%. Arrivals from Europe grew by a modest 1.3%, with UK arrivals remaining flat at an estimated 1.3 million.
The United States, which remains the region’s leading market, was down 6.3% to 13.9 million American tourist visits. This was due mainly to steep declines in arrivals to popular destinations impacted by the hurricanes, such as Puerto Rico, which was down by 45.6%, and St. Maarten, which fell by 79%.
But with a healthy 28% rise in arrivals from the U.S. in the fourth quarter, reflecting the strong turnaround during this period, the evidence suggests that Caribbean tourism is on the upswing,” said Skeete.
TMI will present a full market by market report in our March magazine.