Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

How do the visitor arrival numbers for the Caribbean look midway through the year? Is the region on target to meet or beat its forecast of an increase between 2% and 3% over 2017's record 30.1 million visitors?

Last year's numbers were achieved despite hurricanes Irma and Maria that wiped out the fourth quarter for several island destinations, some of which are still struggling to regain their footing.

At the time that the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) released its forecast for 2018, Hugh Riley, secretary general, said that global economic conditions were expected to be favorable for 2018, citing low oil prices and higher hourly wages in the U.S. However, he also warned that unpredictable factors could suppress tourism: political tension, threats of terrorist attacks and extreme weather events.

But through, or to, June of this year (not every country reports its visitor stats on the same schedule), the numbers were looking strong for several destinations in terms of stayover arrivals and cruise passengers.

Of the 19 destinations reporting international stayover arrival data for 2018 so far, growth was recorded in 12 while declines were reported in seven.

Cruise passenger arrivals increased in 13 out of 21 destinations and decreased in eight.

Here's a look at some of the islands' visitors numbers to date:


Halfway through 2018, Grenada was outpacing its record tourism numbers from last year, according to the Grenada Tourism Authority.

Cruise visitors, stayover nights and yacht arrivals through June increased 21.2%, to 314,216. Stayovers jumped 10.7%, to 79,371 visitors. The U.S., the largest market, increased 18.11%, to 37,281.

In June alone, U.S. market share topped 50%, led by those from New York, New Jersey and Florida, followed by Canada, the Caribbean region and the U.K.

News from the cruise industry was equally positive. Overall, through June the sector grew by 26.5% and passenger count increased from 174,000, to more than 220,000.

The CTO ranked Grenada fourth for positive growth in cruise passenger arrivals thus far in 2018 behind Bermuda, Curacao and Martinique.

Antigua and Barbuda

Last year, the two-island nation welcomed more than one million sea and air arrivals, a record, although numbers to Barbuda, which were never very high, severely contracted after Hurricane Irma.

Tourism to Antigua jumped 7%, to more than 148,000 visitors through June. This was the strongest overall increase in 15 years for that time period, according to Charles Fernandez, its minister of tourism and investment.

Key source markets, including the U.S., Canada and the U.K., fueled the increases.

This growth is set to continue with significant increased airlift from North America this fall, as well as a full cruise schedule.

"We look forward to working towards attracting new and returning visitors, and we are confident we will see remarkable growth for the second half of the year," Fernandez said.


While numbers through June are not available, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism reported one million tourists had visited the country through March, according to Janet Ayala, the director of communication for the Cuban Ministry of Tourism. The country welcomed more than 4.5 million visitors in 2017, of whom approximately 620,000 were Americans, but U.S. tourism dipped following confusion regarding the Trump administration's restrictions on travel to the country announced in June 2017 and later with mistaken concerns about damage from Hurricane Irma. Tourism began to bounce back in June after a slump of several months, bolstered by increased visits from cruise ships.

Dominican Republic

In the first five months of 2018, the DR's tourism industry registered a 5.9% increase and welcomed more than 2.9 million visitors, according to statistics from the Central Bank.

The country accounted for 21% of all Caribbean travel in 2017, with 6.1 million visitors. The U.S. was the largest source market, supplying more than two million tourists, followed by Canada with 837,000.


The island recorded an overall market growth of 5.4% from January to June, with stopover arrivals increasing by 5.9%, to more than 1.25 million, and cruise passengers by 4.8%, to more than one million.

These figures translated to 100,000 more tourists year-over-year and earned a sizable increase in foreign exchange earnings, according to Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism.

These increases came despite implementation of enhanced security measures earlier in the year to curb crime in Montego Bay.

"While the implementation did stir a whirlwind of concerns locally and internationally, several overseas partners welcomed the initiative as a necessary step to make Jamaica a safe place for all," Bartlett said.


The destination continues on its path of positive growth in 2018, attracting 357,668 stayover visitors from January to June, an increase of 3.1% over the 2017 six-month mark.

The five top-producing markets were the U.K., up 2.8 in arrivals; the U.S., up 8.8%; Canada, up 2.9%, the Caribbean region itself, up 3.1%, and Europe, up 4.3%.

"There's pressure to keep improving and to remain competitive as we continue to grow our brand. Over the next six months, you will see us working even more closely with our partners to ensure these trends continue through the upcoming winter period and beyond," said Billy Griffith, CEO of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.


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