No surprise: Cuba a 2015 growth leader in Caribbean tourism

The Havana skyline.
The Havana skyline. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Caribbean islands drew 28.7 million stopover arrivals in 2015, a 7% increase from the year before, and not unexpectedly, Cuba led the way with 17.4% growth, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization statistics.

The U.S. has been gradually loosening Cuba travel restrictions over the past year, making it easier for operators to offer people-to-people itineraries (educational/cultural trips during which travelers meet Cubans). The result: Cuba drew more than 3.5 million visitors in 2015. Of those, 1.3 million were from “other” source markets (a category that includes the U.S.), a 20% increase.

A total of 1.3 million were from Canada (a 10.5% increase), and nearly 900,000 were from Europe (a 23.1% spike). Travelers originating from Europe and Canada are permitted to take resort vacations in Cuba, but U.S. travelers cannot with the travel embargo still in place.

Other Caribbean destinations achieving double-digit growth in 2015 were Aruba (15%), Barbados (15%) and Haiti (10.9%). The Dominican Republic, the Caribbean nation that attracts the most visitors, reached 5.6 million, an 8.9% increase.

The Caribbean’s third and fourth most visited destinations, Jamaica and the Bahamas, lagged behind the pace set by the region as a whole. Jamaica’s visitor total rose just 2.1%, and the Bahamas’ grew 2.7%.

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