CTO predicts up to 5.5 per cent increase in C'bean tourist arrivals this year
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
The mosquito-borne Zika virus, China’s economic slowdown, Brazil’s recession and Venezuela’s challenges are among the uncertainties facing Caribbean tourism in 2016; however, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) is predicting 4.5 to 5.5 per cent increase in stop-over arrivals this year.
Cruise ship arrivals will hardly move upwards, with estimates limited to one to two per cent, said CTO’s secretary general, Hugh Riley, during the State of the Industry Conference in Barbados this morning.
Riley said the region’s optimism has been tempered by implications of the economic slowdown in China and the uncertainty about the impact of the mosquito-borne disease Zika.
“In addition, the recessions in Brazil and Venezuela will temper our optimism,” he said.
Riley, however, expects lower oil prices, a strong US dollar, improved economic growth in the region’s major source markets and extra airline seat capacity to positively impact tourism performance.
The CTO secretary general’s report comes in the wake of record visitor arrivals in 2015, outpacing the rest of the world and defying numbers predicted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Last year, Caribbean tourist arrivals grew by seven per cent over 2014, with an arrival of 28.7 million visitors to the region.
Haiti, Barbados, Aruba and Cuba posted double digit growth of between 11 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively for stop-over visitors, while Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands saw double digit growth in cruise ship visitors.
Of the 28.7 million visitors, more than 50 per cent were Americans.
"There were over 14.3 million United States visits to the region, 6.3 per cent more than the previous year," he noted, adding that the majority of Americans to the region visited the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and The Bahamas.
The highest growth rates in arrivals from the US market were recorded in Barbados (27.6 per cent), Curaçao (15.3 per cent) and Trinidad & Tobago (14.9 per cent).
Similarly, the Canadian market continued to perform well, rising by 4.5 per cent in 2015.
Again, Curaçao and Barbados were among the top recipients of the growth.
Arrivals from the European market were estimated at 5.2 million, for the first time since 2008, asserted the CTO secretary general, noting that this represented growth of 4.2 per cent.
The UK remains the Caribbean’s leading source market, with its top recipients being Cuba, Barbados and Jamaica.