Caribbean tourism in 2022 was characterized by strong recovery reported the Caribbean Tourism Organization at its annual Tourism and Outlook presentation on March 7.
Acting CTO Secretary General Neil Walters reported that the Caribbean tourism industry was resilient and built on the rebound that began in the middle of 2021. By the end of 2022, the Caribbean registered 28.3 million tourist visits, about 52.4% more than there were in 2021, and more than 88% of the visitors who arrived in 2019, the baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic.
Except for Haiti (-20.3%), which was negatively impacted by the well-documented crisis, and the US Virgin Islands (-3.2%), where arrival levels are normalizing, all 27 destinations showed an increase in stayover visitors compared to 2021 of between 8.3% and 16-fold. In addition, 14 destinations saw an increase in arrivals in one or more months in 2022 when compared to the same time in 2019.
The US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Curaçao surpassed their total pre-pandemic arrival numbers. A third of the remaining destinations have recovered at least 80.0% of their pre-pandemic arrivals, reports the CTO.
All regions of the Caribbean saw an increase in international visitor arrivals over 2021, and the Dutch Caribbean and the US Territories surpassed their 2019 levels.
The United States spurred the Caribbean recovery, with an estimated 28.1% increase in visitors coming from the US market in 2022 compared to 2021. At the end of the year, 14.6 million American tourists visited the region, 3.2 million more than the 11.4 million in 2021. This market accounted for 51.5% of all arrivals to the region in 2022, and reflects 93.3% of 2019 visitation — the highest level of recovery of all of the main markets for the Caribbean.
The Canadian market, which had been under stringent travel restrictions that were not lifted until October 2022, has shown the lowest level of recovery. When the restrictions were raised, Canadian travel rebounded rapidly, and arrivals increased significantly after two consecutive years in decline. Tourist visits in 2022 were 2.1 million but this only accounted for 60.0% of the pre-pandemic amount.
European travel delivered robust resurgence thanks to reduced and shorter travel restrictions, pent-up demand, and surplus savings accrued during the pandemic, said the CTO.
The 5.2 million tourist arrivals from the European market increased by 81.0% in 2022 compared to 2021, and were almost double the 2.8 million that came in 2021. This represented 18.3% of all arrivals in 2022, a gain of almost 3.0 percentage points. The arrivals in 2022 were 87.7% of this market’s total in 2019.
Intra-regional Caribbean travel for leisure and business increased when compared to 2021 but lagged 2019 figures. Connectivity between countries was hampered by insufficient airlift and the annual arrivals only recovered between 30.0% and 50.0% of the 2019 levels. Total arrivals in the reporting countries were 0.9 million, up from the 0.4 million in 2021 but down from 1.1 million of 2019.
With the lifting of travel restrictions, the total number of cruise visitors in the region reached 19.2 million in 2022 – five times more than those in 2021. However, this only represents 63.3% of the record number of cruise visits (30.4 million) set in 2019.
The Northern Caribbean emerged as the most visited region in 2022, with an estimated 6.5 million cruise visits (six times more than in 2021) and 91.9% of the pre-pandemic arrivals. These destinations benefited from their proximity to the main homeports for the cruise lines. Cruise visits to other regions were either four or five times more than in 2021. However, while the Eastern and Western Caribbean recovered 55.0% of their 2019 figures, the Southern Caribbean recovered to 51.3%.
The outlook for travel to the Caribbean is promising despite global pressures.
International travel from other markets will contribute to the region’s already substantial benefits from the United States. Nearly 90% of the region’s travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered, and some destinations have even surpassed their pre-pandemic levels.
The CTO expects overall arrivals to the region will increase by between 10.0% and 15.0% compared to 2022, representing between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists, which would surpass pre-pandemic arrivals.
The cruise industry also anticipates more recovery and expansion, with between 32.0 million and 33.0 million cruise visits, a 5.0% to 10.0% increase over the pre-covid baseline figure.
*The CTO report the countries and destinations in the conventional geographical region as well as Belize, Guyana, Suriname and the Mexican Caribbean (Cancun and Cozumel).