Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Visitor arrivals to the Caribbean in 2016 top 29 million

Published:Thursday | February 9, 2017 | 2:36 PM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

Despite political uncertainties, security and economic challenges in its main source markets, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 4.2 per cent in 2016, better than the 3.9 per cent overall, internationally.

Breaking new ground, surpassing 29 million arrivals for the first time in history, the region once again has recorded faster growth than the global average.

Addressing the media this morning in Barbados, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Hugh Riley stated the region welcomed over one million more visitors last year than in 2015, a proud record of growth for the seventh straight year.

In addition, cruise passenger arrivals grew by an estimated 1.3 per cent, to approximately 26.3 million, outpacing land based businesses.

The Caribbean saw its strongest growth from the Europe, despite terrorist attacks in some countries, the Brexit referendum in the UK and bumpy economic outcomes across continental Europe.

“Caribbean arrivals from UK/Europe climbed by over 11 per cent, to reach 5.6 million,” said Riley.

The United States however, continues to be the region’s primary long-stay market, increasing by three-and-a-half per cent and providing just about half of all arrivals.

Riley, noted that while figures from the U.S National Travel & Tourism Office for the month of November showed that the Caribbean’s share of the U.S outbound market was second only to Europe, the growth rate was the slowest among all regions.

The Canadian market remained feeble and intra-Caribbean travel continued to be a vexing issue.

Canada, once a strong and reliable market for the region during the challenging recession years was uncharacteristically feeble last year, recording a drop of nearly 3.5 per cent when compared to 2015, said Riley.

He added that the intra-Caribbean travel remained costly and fragmented, however, visits within the region increased for the second straight year, a clear sign of the interest by Caribbean people in taking vacations to their neighbouring countries.

One discouraging thing the CTO head noted was the fact that the renowned Smith Travel Research points to revenue being down in many of the region’s hotels.