The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) shared some positive news Tuesday morning during a press briefing that revealed evidence that perhaps the worst of the COVID-impacted travel days are behind us.
Kenneth Bryan, CTO chair, and Neil Walters, acting secretary general for the CTO, led the meeting.
Walters said tourism in the year 2022 was characterized by a strong recovery. According to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), roughly 917 million tourists traveled internationally in 2022. This level of arrivals was double that of 2021 and represented 62.6 percent of pre-pandemic levels, said Walters.
“It’s clearly apparent that even in the face of the devastating blows delivered by the pandemic, as a region we have responded with hope, strength, and determination to prevail," said Bryan.
In 2022, the second full year of the global pandemic, the Caribbean tourism industry was resilient and built on the rebound that was noticeable from the middle of 2021, said Walters.
By the end of 2022, there were 28.3 million registered tourist visits in the Caribbean, about 52.4 percent more than there were in 2021.
The region accounted for 3.1 percent of all arrivals worldwide, down one percentage point from the historically high share of 4.1 percent recorded in 2021, said Walters.
The 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022 made up 88.6 percent of the visitors who arrived in 2019, which served as the baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic, said Walters.
Thus, the Caribbean was one of the regions with the quickest recovery rates globally in 2022.
International travel restrictions that were further relaxed as well as strong demand in the U.S., the region’s top source market for inbound travel, bolstered the recovery.
Strategic marketing initiatives and the restoration of some of the airlift capacity between more markets and the Caribbean also contributed to the positive results.
However, the industry’s recovery and growth were undermined throughout the year by the
negative effects, including rising prices and intermittent supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, labor shortages and disputes, global inflation, and heightened geopolitical tension, said Walters.
There were 1.7 million tourist visits during the winter season, from January to April 2022, 121.4 percent more than in the winter season of 2021.
During the summer, from April to December 2022, 19.1 million tourists visited, 32.6 percent more than for the same time in 2021, said Walters.
Except for Haiti, which was down 20.3 percent, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was down 3.2 percent, all 27 destinations showed an increase in stay-over visitors compared to 2021 of between 8.3 and 16 percent.
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 U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Curacao are the six countries that have surpassed their total pre-pandemic arrival numbers.
A third of the remaining destinations have recovered at least 80 percent of their pre-pandemic arrivals.
All regions of the Caribbean saw an increase in international visitor arrivals over 2021, but only the Dutch Caribbean and the U.S. Territories surpassed its 2019 levels. This is because the results by region matched the results in the destinations, said Walters.
Despite all the headwinds throughout the year, the U.S. economy returned to its pre-pandemic trajectory and residents took more outbound trips, said Walters.
There was an estimated 28.1 percent increase in visitors coming from the U.S. market in 2022. 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 percent of all arrivals to the region in 2022, down from the 61.4 percent share in 2021.
These results reflect 93.3 percent of the visitors from this market in 2019 and the highest level of recovery of all of the main markets for the Caribbean.
For the 2022 winter season, arrivals from the U.S. market increased by 74.2 percent when compared to 2021, and by 14.5 percent during the summer months.
In 2022, the Caribbean area had improvements in all significant performance indicators for the hotel sector according to STR. From 44.4 percent in 2021, hotel occupancy increased to 60.7 percent in 2022.
The average daily rate increased by 21.7 percent to $290.60 during this time, and the revenue per available room surged by 66.4 percent to $176.46.
The number of available rooms was up by 4.4 percent, as well as room income which increased by 73.6 percent, said Walters.
Now that the restrictions designed to control the spread of the coronavirus have been lifted and the tourist sector has rebounded, so too has the cruise sector.
In 2022, the total number of cruise visitors in the region reached 19.2 million - five times more than those in 2021 and this was 63.3 percent 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 percent of the pre-pandemic arrivals, said Walters.
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 percent of their 2019 figures, the Southern Caribbean could only muster 51.3 percent, said Walters.
Walters said when compared to 2022, it is expected that overall arrivals to the region will increase by between 10 and 15 percent. This means that between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists can be expected to visit the region this year, said Walters.
"Strides have been made and many of our jurisdictions have ended ’22 registering higher than predicted visitor arrivals," said Bryan. "This is a clear indication that this sector is bouncing back and hopes are high that the robust pace of recovery will continue in 2023 and beyond.”