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%.