A welcome sign, Caribbean tourism has recorded robust growth in 2019, according to new data from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
The region saw a 12% increase in tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2019, thanks in part to a 24% rise in arrivals from the U.S. Between January and March of this year, there were 9.1 million international tourist trips to the region, up by 970,000 over the corresponding period last year.
“It was a united effort from the entire Caribbean,” CTO chairman Dominic Fedee during a media conference hosted at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel as part of the CTO’s Caribbean Week New York.
“There has been a very strong return to growth in the Caribbean,” Fedee said. “Some of the islands that were affected by the hurricane have reopened for business and have done so expertly and efficiently.” Puerto Rico, devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, has seen 62.3% growth, Fedee reported.
The arrivals boom extended to the cruise sector as well, with a record 10.7 million cruise passengers visits, an increase of 9.9% or 900,000 more cruise arrivals when compared to the same period in 2018.
The U.S. was the strongest performing market during the first quarter, with 4.5 million tourist visits, while Canada's 1.5 million tourist visits to the Caribbean represented a strong 4% rise.
The overall growth in both stay-over and cruise visits, coupled with a 1.4% rise in available airline seats during the first quarter of 2019, brought to 12.4 million the number of international seats attracted to the region during the period.
Going forward, Fedee said, there will be more coordination throughout the islands of the Caribbean in terms of marketing initiatives.
“You will see a big push from the Caribbean to ensure that we activate our marketing initiatives in a more uniform manner,” he said. “We believe we are in a better position to do so together than to do so alone.”
Those efforts will be diverse to appeal to all demographics. While Millennials might bring the media excitement, “I don’t think any member country in this room is taking their eyes off the Baby Boomers; the research is suggesting that a great percentage of airline tickets are purchased by Baby Boomers.”
The CTO is bullish in its forecast for the year, predicting an 8% to 9% increase in tourist arrivals, along with 5.5% to 6.5% growth in cruise arrivals.
“Overall, a statistical analysis of the first quarter gives us much to celebrate, as substantial numbers indicate healthy economic conditions in key source markets and a strong resurgence of tourism in destinations impacted by the 2017 hurricanes,” Fedee said.