Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Visitor arrivals to the Caribbean remain flat, despite 15.6 million tourists visiting the region between January and July this year, says chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
"There was no incremental difference when compared to the same period last year, but actual levels still remain above pre-crisis levels," the CTO chairman told the media during a briefing on the final day of the State of the Industry Conference at the Madiana Palais des Congrès Convention Centre in Martinique last Friday.
The findings, which were compiled by the CTO, show results from 18 destinations within the Caribbean. Seventeen of them recorded increases in tourist arrivals, with 10 growing faster than the world average of 5.2 per cent.
The 10 include Anguilla, Aruba, Belize, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, and Suriname.
Jamaica was not included in this list, owing to the closure and refurbishing of several hotels.
By December, at least three resorts will come on board - the former Trelawny Beach, now being operated by Royalton; the new RIU Jamaica Palace in Montego Bay; and Karisma in Negril.
Indications are that the best-performing sub-region is the Dutch Caribbean, which recorded a 4.6 per cent increase over the corresponding period last year, while other markets such as South America have been doing exceptionally well.
While the United States (US) remains the region's largest source market, only a marginal growth of 0.8 per cent was recorded in the January to July period, revealed CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley.
Riley said about 7.8 million tourists visited the region from the United States, an indication that the market share for the US rose slightly, moving from 49.6 per cent in 2012 to 50.4 per cent.
In the case of the Canadian market, which was referred to as the saving grace up to two years ago, there was contraction by 1.5 per cent for the same period.
Riley, pointing out that the market share fell marginally to 13.1 per cent, said 2.1 million Canadians visited the region in 2013 compared to 2.2 million in 2012.
Canadians took 1.6 per cent fewer outbound trips to places other than the US. Their trips to the United States increased by 4.3 per cent, a shift that statisticians at the CTO warn should be noted.
Not surprising, European arrivals to the Caribbean declined by 5.1 per cent so far this year, a situation many still blame on the air passenger duty imposed by the United Kingdom. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States was the region worst hit by the fall-off in European arrivals. It registered a 4.1 per cent drop in arrivals from the UK, while CARICOM countries, including Jamaica, registered a 1.7 per cent fall-off.
Cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean are also down, with 13.4 million visitors sailing into the region up to the end of July.
The State of the Industry Conference brought together decision-makers from the public and private sectors, academics, government officials, hoteliers, travel professionals, and journalists from the region and around the world. The conference ran from October 16 -18.