Thu | Oct 18, 2018

#SOTIC21017 | Hurricanes destroy region's tourism growth hopes

Published:Friday | October 13, 2017 | 9:59 AMJanet Silvera


St George’s, Grenada:

The Caribbean’s hope of continuing on a growth rate of 5.2 per cent has been shattered with the passing of hurricanes Maria and Irma, which both caused devastation in some 13 islands.

Not only were stop-over arrivals doing significantly well, but the region expected its largest number of cruise passengers this time of the year.

Instead, the region will experience growth ranging between 1.0 and 2.0 per cent, slowing for the remaining quarters of the year.

“We had been performing at a healthy growth between January and June, when compared to the same period last year,” Joy Jibrilu, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) told journalists during a press conference this morning at the State of the Tourism Industry Conference (#SOTIC) now on in Grenada.

Jibrilu said before the storms touched down on the region, there was economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers, and new marketing and product development initiatives.

In fact, things were going so well, the region recorded 16.6 million international tourist arrivals, some 800 thousand more than in the first six months of 2016.

Growth was recorded in all major source markets except South America, which contracted by 14.3 per cent, she revealed.

“Up to June, the European market had grown by 7.9 per cent, Canada by 6.4 per cent and, despite the weak sterling, the UK by 4.8 per cent.”

In the hotel industry, the half-year outcomes reported by STR Global showed that average occupancy increased marginally by 0.2 percentage points to 70.8 per cent, while the average daily room rate rose slightly by 0.2 per cent, moving from US$220.84 in 2016 to US$221.38 in 2017. 

Like stop-over tourist arrivals, growth in the cruise sector also remained positive and stronger than the expected performance in the first half of the year.

At the end of the first six months of 2017, it is estimated that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached 15.3 million, 4.0 per cent more than in the corresponding period of 2016.

The storms were not the only contributors to the region’s misfortune; some of the impact has been spurred by lack of knowledge of travellers to the region.

Many are not aware that the distance between Barbados and Belize is more than six times as great as Toronto to Montreal; that New York to Chicago is only half as far as the Bahamas to Grenada; Guyana to Cuba is twice as far as London to Rome and that Dominica and the Dominican Republic are more than three times further away from each other than New York to Washington DC.

This lack of information resulted in cancellation of vacation to a number of islands not affected by the storms.