The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has released the findings of their latest report, which indicate that growth in international tourist arrivals to the region was estimated to be 9.7 per cent through June, significantly higher than that of most of the major regions and the international and regional trends.
After a year of continuous declines, the past nine months have seen growth in tourist visits as the hurricane-impacted destinations returned to normalcy and unimpacted destinations built upon already favourable outcomes.
Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean grew by a solid 9.7 per cent in the first six months of 2019 to reach 17.1 million, some 1.5 million more than the corresponding half-year in 2018. These strong results reflect the resilience of individual destinations and demonstrate their ability to skillfully navigate global political and economic concerns including a possible no-deal Brexit and the ongoing trade wars which threaten the stability of the global economy.
As a result of revisions to the arrival data, tourist trips in the first quarter are now estimated to have increased by 12.4 per cent and totalled 9.1 million. However, during the second quarter, stop-over arrivals to the region were less buoyant, up 6.7 per cent.
The initial monthly figures for the quarter revealed that the performances in the months of April (13.3%) and May (7.8%) were improvements upon the ones observed in the corresponding month a year earlier.
What helped, and what hindered?
The main contributors to the decline experienced were no real growth in Cuba (-19.8 per cent), which was impacted by the US government-enforced travel restrictions on US residents visiting the island, and in the Dominican Republic (0.1%) which grapples with safety and security concerns following a string of tourist deaths.
At the end of the winter season arrivals were estimated to have expanded robustly by 12.7 per cent. In the first two months of the summer season, stay-over visitor arrivals grew by 3.4 per cent.
Declines in tourist arrivals were recorded in only two of the 25 reporting destinations. In Haiti, limited data and social unrest resulted in an apparent contraction of -45.7 per cent at the half-year, while fewer available seats contributed to the decline of -3.3 per cent in Bermuda.
On-the-other hand, several factors supported the gains made so far including increased air capacity between the region and major sources, expansions in the accommodation sector and the positive positioning of the islands’ brands in the various source markets. The 23 destinations recorded growth ranging from 1.5 per cent in Trinidad & Tobago to 140.0 per cent in Anguilla. The other top performers in terms of growth rates were St. Maarten (130.3 per cent), the British Virgin Islands (93.5 per cent), Dominica (66.7 per cent) and the US Virgin Islands (56.2 per cent).
In absolute numbers, the Dominican Republic (3.6 million), Cuba (2.6 million) and Jamaica (1.4 million) dominated tourist arrivals in the region and enjoyed increases of 3.9 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 10.9 per cent, respectively.
Growth from Canada
For the first six months, the number of overnight outbound trips by Canadians to international destinations excluding the United States increased by 3.3%4 according to Destination Canada. The strength of the Canadian dollar with respect to the U.S. dollar and increasing discretionary spending among Canadian consumers helped the region to receive more visits from this market.
Arrival data obtained from the destinations indicated some 2.1 million Canadian tourists stayed in the region up to the end of June. This outcome represented a modest 2.4 per cent increase in arrivals from this market. Arrivals grew in each month of the winter season and contracted in the first two months of the summer season. Therefore, an increase of 4.3 per cent was recorded in the first quarter followed by a decline of -1.5 per cent in the second quarter.
The results were mixed among the regional destinations with 15 out of 21 reporting overall increases. High volume destinations Cuba and Jamaica were among the group beating their numbers from a year ago, but their performances were sluggish having recorded modest growth of 1.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.
The two top-performing destinations for this market during the period were St. Maarten (452.4 per cent) and Anguilla (230.0 per cent). Other destinations saw more moderate increases which ranged from 6.5 per cent in Belize to 29.4 per cent in Puerto Rico. Six destinations recorded declines in this market, the most significant of which were registered in Aruba (-11.2 per cent), Guyana (-10.6 per cent) and Barbados (-4.1 per cent). Notably, arrivals to the Dominican Republic contracted marginally by -0.8% in the same period.
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