Caribbean sees 7% hike in visitor arrivals in 2015

Sugar Beach, St. Lucia

Estimated 28.7 million people visited the Caribbean region

The Caribbean tourism industry recorded a seven per cent increase in tourist arrivals last year, with an estimated 28.7 million people visiting the region, the Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Hugh Riley announced Tuesday.

Riley, presenting the “State of the Tourism Industry Report,” said that for the first time, the pace of growth of Caribbean tourism outperformed every major tourism region in the world.

“Our region has set new arrival and spend records in 2015, far surpassing expectations,” he said, noting that the seven per cent growth in 2015 is “much higher than the projected four to five per cent.

“This performance was above the global rate of growth, which the UN agency, the World Tourism Organization quotes at 4.4 per cent. “

He said in that period, visitors spent over a billion US dollars more than they did in 2014, contributing approximately US$30 billion to Caribbean economies, representing a 4.2 per cent increase than the US$28.8 billion spent during the previous year.

“So 2015 was the second year in a row that the region has done better than the rest of the world, and the sixth consecutive year of growth for the Caribbean. This solid performance by the Caribbean was based on several factors, not least of which was the sustained demand from major source markets,’ Riley said.

He said the Caribbean benefitted from a rise in consumer confidence in the United States where a strong dollar encouraged outbound travel among Americans and that other factors included increased air capacity and persistent marketing by many Caribbean destinations and resorts plying for business in the US.

Riley said consequently, travel from the US grew an impressive 6.3 per cent to 14.3 million visits, accounting for approximately 50 per cent of all arrivals.

He said Canadian market continued to be resilient with a 4.5 per cent increase in 2015, although its share of total arrivals dropped marginally from 12.1 per cent to 11.8 per cent, with 3.4 million Canadians coming to the Caribbean.

The European market made significant gains in 2015, recording its best performance in seven years.  For the first time since 2008, total arrivals from Europe reached the five million mark, a rise of 4.2 per cent compared to 2014, the senior Caribbean tourism official said, noting that the United Kingdom was one of the dominant performers, growing by a healthy 10.4 per cent to 1.1 million visitors.

Riley said that travel to countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands – was up 2.1 per cent, while every other sub-grouping recorded growth of at least three per cent.

Figures show the best performing was the grouping of “Other Caribbean” comprising Cancun, Cozumel, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname, which recorded arrivals of 11.3 per cent.

The combination of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saint Maarten, St Eustatius and Saba recorded a 7.4 per cent increase.

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