Caribbean tourism sector holding its own in 2004

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Final visitor numbers for the Caribbean region for 2004 are in, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

The visitor tally topped 21.8 million, which represents a 7% overall increase in air arrivals last year over 2003. Cruise passenger visits last year increased by 13%, to 20.5 million.

Arley Sobers, CTOs director of information management and research, said that the Caribbean tourism sector in 2004 can best be described as robustly holding its own.

Based on a sample of Caribbean hotels in 11 CTO member countries, the average room occupancy for 2004 was 67.9% as compared with 62.7% in 2003. Meanwhile, 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 in 2004 slowed as the year progressed, Sobers said.

From January through April 2004, arrivals jumped 10% but fell to 6% from May through December. Although the active hurricane season was clearly a factor in the slowdown, the setback was a temporary one, according to Sobers.

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

From a percentage standpoint, the big winners 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, with 1.4 million; and Jamaica, with close to 1.3 million.

On the cruise side, the islands with the biggest percentage gains were Dominica (up 106.1%), Belize (up 55.1%) and Grenada (up 74.6%). Grenadas cruise figures, by the way, measured only the first seven months of the year before Hurricane Ivan struck in September.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Gay Nagle Myers at [email protected].

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