Canadian arrivals to the Caribbean have outpaced overall international growth this year, according to the latest figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The latest travel statistics were announced by CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley during the organization’s 2017 Caribbean Media Day, held in Toronto yesterday (Nov. 13) and sponsored this year by Saint Lucia.
Eleven Caribbean destinations – including Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Turks and Caicos and Saint Lucia – were represented during the day’s media marketplace, sharing news and destination updates.
According to Riley, Canadian arrivals grew 6.4 per cent year-over-year during the first six months of 2017, compared to an overall international growth rate of 5.2 per cent. That later figure outpaced the CTO’s forecast of between 2.5 and 3.5 per cent growth for the period, Riley said.
More than 3.4 million Canadians are expected to visit the region by the end of the year, he added.
“It’s a reflection of economic stability in the market,” Riley said, “as well as expansion, new flights and new market development initiatives.”
While numbers for October are not yet available (which Riley said will give a true indication of the hurricane season’s impact on Caribbean travel), the CTO’s outlook for growth in 2017 is cautious, Riley explained, with overall growth forecasts downgraded to between one and two per cent, with a similar rate expected for 2018.
Part of the issue, Riley explained, is a lack of awareness of Caribbean geography amongst a segment of travellers, who may have opted to avoid the entire region due to the devastation seen in destinations such as St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Dominica. In response, the CTO will soon launch an awareness campaign informing travellers that the region is not only open for business, but that it never closed in the first place despite two record storms this fall.
“There’s every indication that Canadians are more than casually familiar with the diversity and more than casually familiar with the relationships between the various countries,” Riley told PAX. “That’s not to say that we don’t have a job to do at both the regional and national levels – we need to do a better job of educating new travellers and refreshing the information of older travellers as well. Canada has such a kinship with the Caribbean, which is obvious from the statistics and I believe the job we have to do in Canada is less intense than in other markets.”
And to travel agents, Riley not only extended his thanks during a difficult time but made a request as well: “keep challenging us.
“The number one message to travel agents is thank you,” Riley told PAX. “They’ve been in touch with the CTO and every tourist board; looking for information and updates. We appreciate that travel agents in Canada continue to challenge us for updates and training, which helps them to understand that if their favourite island they’ve been booking for years repeatedly isn’t ready to accommodate all of their clients immediately, they have others which fit neatly into the same category.
“Keep on challenging us, so that you can give your clients the authentic inside scoop,” he continued. “That’s why we’re here, to make sure they’re successful in booking the Caribbean.”
Check back with PAX for destination updates from Caribbean Media Day.