Based on first-quarter air arrivals, the Caribbean region is in a good place right now. And tourism officials predict a 6% rise in overall arrival numbers this year compared with 2014, when 26.3 million people visited the islands.
“The Caribbean bolted out of the gates this year with a 6% increase in arrivals from January through March over the same period in 2014,” said Richard Sealy, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and tourism minister of Barbados.
Sealy made his comments during CTO’s Caribbean Week, which took place in New York last week.
Key points of Sealy’s remarks:
* Air arrivals to the Caribbean region in Q1 totaled 7.9 million, the fifth consecutive year in which arrivals grew during the first quarter and the 17th quarter of continuous growth.
* Arrivals from the U.S., the region’s largest market, grew by 5.6%; Canada arrivals rose 5.4%.
* Cuba and the Dominican Republic led the region in visitor-number increases.
* Caribbean hoteliers also reported a strong first quarter. Average room occupancy was 77.8%, average daily rate increased to $239.84 and revenue per available room grew to $188.25.
“The outlook for the rest of the year is positive, although growth is expected to be moderate and uneven among member countries,” Sealy said.
Cruise growth slowed in Q1; the Caribbean registered 8.6 million passengers, a 3.4% rise over Q1 2014, compared with a 4.3% jump between 2013 and 2014. Cruise ports with the highest increases were Martinique, up 34.2%; Puerto Rico, up 26.2%; Antigua and Barbuda, up 18.6%; and Jamaica, up 15.9%.
Momentum from cruise growth could be reduced as cruise lines reposition ships to the Mediterranean and other areas during the summer months, according to Sealy.
“Overall we see that there is no lack of tonnage being committed by the cruise sector to the region," he said.
"What we are seeing is that with the larger ships, there may be fewer calls but more passengers. This is a trend we are seeing with all of the major cruise lines."
Regarding Cuba, a CTO member country, Sealy said that its emergence as a travel destination does not pose a threat to the rest of the Caribbean.
“We are not afraid of what is happening in Cuba," he said. "If any of our members can attract people to the region, it is good for the region as a whole."