Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Visitors spend US$37 billion in Caribbean

Published:Friday | February 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera/Gleaner Writer
Ryan Skeete (left) and Hugh Riley at the CTO press conference on Thursday morning.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Despite a number of islands being ravaged by two powerful hurricanes, Caribbean tourism reached another major milestone in 2017, surpassing 30 million stopover arrivals for the very first time.

The region, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Acting Director for Research Ryan Skeete also experienced a whopping and hard-to-ignore US$37 billion in total visitor spending.

Skeete, who was delivering an address at the CTO Headquarters, Warrens, St Michael, Barbados, yesterday, further noted that the record-breaking performance was primarily supported by sustained economic growth in all of the Caribbean's major source markets.

"Our major source market, the United States, grew by approximately 0.5 per cent to reach an estimated 14.9 million visits to the region. This performance was attributed to solid economic growth, a low unemployment rate, and high consumer confidence in the US," Skeete pointed out.

 

Improvement

 

"Arrivals from the European market totalled 5.8 million and improved by an estimated 6.2 per cent, the strongest growth among the main markets. Visits from the Canadian market rebounded in 2017, growing by 4.3 per cent compared to a decline of 3.1 per cent in 2016."

Skeete added that several countries, notably, St Lucia (11 per cent), Belize (10.8 per cent), and Bermuda (10.3 per cent), reported double-digit increases in 2017 while the hurricane-affected countries recorded decreases ranging from -18 per cent to -7 per cent.

The contributing factors, he said, were that the countries that experienced the massive boom had greater air access from the source markets to the region and the realisation of significant investments, including hotels, to enhance the tourism product.

 

Cruise passenger arrivals record set in 2017

 

Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Acting Director for Research Ryan Skeete has indicated that cruise passenger arrivals set a new landmark in 2017, reaching an estimated 27 million visits to the region. This, he said, was 2.4 per cent higher than recorded numbers in 2016.

"The cruise passenger performance mirrors the performance of tourist arrivals as it grew strongly (4.6 per cent) in the first half of 2017 but contracted marginally (-0.4 per cent) in the second half of the year. Indeed, cruise passenger arrivals fell dramatically in September by some 20 per cent. However, growth resumed in October, which saw a two per cent increase," Skeete added.

For his part, secretary general of the CTO Hugh Riley said that despite the glowing numbers in both revenues and visitor arrivals, the Caribbean is yet to maximise its full potential and can do better.

"Tourism is the business that delivers foreign exchange every time a plane lands and a cruise ship docks. It reduces unemployment and delivers massive amounts of tax dollars to our national treasuries," Riley emphasised.

"Therefore, we should worry when we're not using this job-creating, tax-generating, foreign-exchange-earning machine to its full potential. We should worry when the rate of occupancy across the region is still below 70 per cent. This tells us that we have an opportunity - indeed, a responsibility - to market ourselves more effectively, to fill those empty rooms.

"Until we do those things, we are not capitalising on the substantial investment we have already made to build the plant in the first place, and we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to further erosion of our competitive position," he added.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com