What a weird summer.
The news of the rapid rise in Covid cases in the U.S. makes it feel at times as if we're back in the middle of 2020, wearing masks, washing hands and elbow-bumping again.
But there is good news. Caribbean cruising has resumed, although it has had its fits and starts.
And there's interesting data from several Caribbean destinations that points to a boom in visitor arrivals and bookings. The data was collected before the delta variant spread widely in the U.S., but it could point to positive times ahead.
Aruba, for example, welcomed 75,727 stayover visitors from the U.S. in June, 98% more visitors than in June 2019, according to the Aruba Tourism Authority.
The vaccination program/campaign for Aruba started in February 2021. Approximately 65% of the country's total population has been vaccinated to date.
The Dominican Republic, too, is hitting high marks in the visitor numbers sector. Tourist arrivals in the DR increased to 462,536 in June from 390,948 in May, with average hotel occupancy rates in the 70% range, according to data from the Central Bank.
Ease of entry for U.S. visitors (no pre-test and no vaccination required) are probably helping to push those arrivals up.
Puerto Rico is seeing the most hotel demand since before Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the highest demand ever in June, according to research from Discover Puerto Rico.
In addition, June's average daily hotel rate of $258 was 36% higher than in June 2019. The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. reported that June lodging revenues exceeded $10 million for the first time and "are on pace to continue throughout 2021, as both hotels and rentals currently have more reservations on the books through the rest of the calendar year as compared to the same time frame in 2019," according to a statement.
Data from Travel Click, Discover Puerto Rico's data provider for forward-looking hotel bookings, revealed that August and September reservations are more than 50% higher than two years ago.
"While this drops off in the fourth quarter, hotels continue to book 25% ahead of 2019 for the final months of the year," Travel Click reported.
The data company warned, however, that the rise of the delta variant of Covid-19 could deter these advance bookings.
Destination Analysis in its July 27 Travel Sentiment Index Report revealed that optimism about the pandemic getting better has plummeted.
"American travelers' expectations that the coronavirus situation will get worse in the next month made a significant jump, from 19.6% the week of July 12 to 43% the week of July 19, surpassing expectations that the situation will get better," the report said. It cited that the excitement level to travel is down, personal health concerns are up and travelers' confidence in the ability to travel safely right now is down.
It remains to be seen if the Covid case rise due to the delta variant in the U.S. will significantly increase pessimism and decrease bookings among travelers who plan to visit the islands in the near future.
I hope not.