Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) announced that 2014 is the best year ever for tourism industry. Richard Sealy, Chairman of CTO who is also Barbados’ Tourism Minister said, “Last year, we received more visitors than ever before – recording our fifth straight year of growth – and visitors spent more money in the Caribbean than they ever did before”.
“There was strong demand throughout 2014 and I am particularly pleased with our performance during the summer period when our growth rate was almost twice that of the summer of 2013,” Sealy added.
Sealy announced that a record 26.3 million visitors came to the Caribbean last year, spending a record US$29.2 billion and added that Caribbean holidays are still in demand, all of this a sign that, despite the moderate growth, stability is returning to the markets and consumer confidence is growing”.
“Clearly, last year, the Caribbean’s tourism industry was the strongest on record. There’s no doubt that political and economic conditions, increased airline seat capacity, improved airport facilities, increased room stock – as recognized hotel chains established themselves in our destinations – and new initiatives in the marketplace, all contributed to this success.”
“The outlook for Caribbean tourism is positive, and we project a further four to five per cent rise in arrivals in 2015.”
1.3 million more visitors came to the Caribbean than in 2013, which itself was a record year, representing a 5.3 per cent rise, and well above the projected two to three per cent. Those visitors spent just over a billion dollars more than they did in 2013.
Riley said that the robust showing for the Caribbean was based on the good performance of traditional markets.
He said Canada, which was flat in 2013, rallied strongly, while the US maintained healthy growth and Europe topped five million visitors for the first time since 2008.
But Riley said the CTO remained concerned over intra-regional travel to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), noting that demand for intra-regional travel to the nine-member sub regional grouping “remained depressed for most of 2014, with preliminary estimates suggesting that this market segment contracted by over three per cent”.
“The supply of visitors by Caribbean neighbors increased by 4.8 per cent but this was not to the benefit of those destinations with heaviest reliance on the market. Demand for intra-regional travel to the OECS remained depressed for the most of 2014,” he reiterated.
He said that with more Americans taking outbound trips, the US continued to be the dominant supplier of visitors to the region accounting for just under half of all tourists, while growing at 5.5 per cent.
He said Canadians also took more international trips during the year to the benefit of Caribbean destinations, thereby retaining the Canadian market share at 12.3 per cent.
“The increased number of trips was a recovery from the marginal decline which was realized from the market in 2013,” he said, noting however that the popularity of Cuba and the Dominican Republic among Canadian visitors market is undeniable, and together these destinations account for 57.9 per cent of the total.
The estimated total number of cruise passenger arrivals in the region was 23.9 million, an increase of eight per cent compared to 2013.
Of the 24 destinations reporting data, 21 destinations achieved increases, 14 of them in double digits, topped by St. Vincent & the Grenadines at nearly 92 per cent.
The French island of Martinique (71.3%), Belize (42.9%), Trinidad & Tobago (30.1%) and Turks & Caicos (24.8%) were the other top performing destinations, while by market share standards, the top five performers were The Bahamas, Cozumel, US Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and St. Maarten.
He said room occupancy rates improved slightly; and revenue per available room was up 5.7 per cent.
2014 was a strong year for air travel, not only regionally, but globally. Airlines doing business in the Caribbean are adding seats to destinations to which they already fly, while some are adding new destinations. As a result, capacity to Latin America and the Caribbean increased six per cent, according to IATA, the International Air Transport Association.