Caribbean cruise visitors, air arrivals strong in 2004

The Caribbean tourism sector in 2004 can best be described as robustly holding its own, according to Arley Sobers, director of information management and research for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Final visitor numbers topped 21.8 million, which represented a 7% overall increase in air arrivals in 2004. Cruise-passenger visits to the Caribbean last year increased by 13% to 20.5 million.

Based on a sample of Caribbean hotels in 11 CTO member countries, the average room occupancy for 2004 was 67.9% compared with 62.7% in 2003.

The average revenue per available room increased 16.4% to $96.14 in 2004, according to Smith Travel Research, international hotel performance analysts.

Growth in tourist arrivals slowed as 2004 proceeded, Sobers said. From January through April 2004, arrivals jumped 10% but fell to 6% growth from May through December.

Sobers said that although the active hurricane season was clearly a factor, the setback was temporary.

In terms of major markets, tourist arrivals from the U.S. grew 7% last year; arrivals from Canada were up 16% (although most of these went to Cuba and the Dominican Republic), and arrivals from Europe grew by just over 4%.

From a percentage-increase standpoint, leaders last year in terms of air arrivals included Anguilla (up 16.5%), Montserrat (up 18.3%), the Cayman Islands (up 14.5%) and St. Maarten (up 14.1%).

From a numbers point of view, the Dominican Republic recorded 3.4 million air arrivals, the Bahamas had 1.4 million and Jamaica 1.2 million.

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