Canada far outpaced the U.S. market in 2011, with Canadian arrivals in the Caribbean up 6.8% over 2010, according to figures released Wednesday by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Arrivals from the U.S. were up 1.7% last year. Anguilla, Barbados, Belize and Curacao registered the highest increases from U.S. travelers, followed by Aruba and Curacao. 

Visitor numbers from Europe remained flat, especially from the U.K., which showed a decline for the third straight year. CTO attributed the decline to a weak economy and increases in the U.K.'s departure tax. 

The Caribbean welcomed 23.8 million tourists in 2011, a 3.3% rise over 2010.

Arrivals to the Caribbean are not expected to increase more than 3% in 2012, said Sean Smith, the CTO’s statistical specialist, during an online press conference from Barbados on Wednesday.

He cited several factors, including high unemployment in main source markets, an election year in the U.S. that could keep travelers at home and the Summer Olympics in London, “all of which could be a significant distraction from north-south travel this year.”

Although the increase in overall visitors “continues the recovery process that began in 2010,” Smith warned that “there were signs that we are not yet out of the woods. The figures revealed uneven growth among destinations and indicated that revenue continued to lag arrivals.”

Hotel occupancy rose slightly, as did the average room rate, but average spend per visitor declined, “which has contributed to stagnant or ebbing foreign exchange revenue streams,” Smith said.

Cruise passenger arrivals increased marginally by 0.3%, to 20.6 million passengers, compared with a worldwide increase of 6.6%.

Redeployment and rescheduling of cruise vessels, particularly during summer months from the southern Caribbean to routes outside the Caribbean, “severely affected cruise numbers,” Smith said.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 

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