Despite hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Caribbean reported a
record number of visitors for 2017. The region drew 30.1 million visitors, a
1.7% increase and the eighth consecutive year of growth, according to the
Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Had Irma and Maria not wiped out the fourth quarter for many
Caribbean destinations, the region would have drawn 31 million visitors,
estimated the CTO.
"Stayover arrivals were on track for a strong
performance during the first half of 2017, growing by an estimated 4.8%.
However, there was a major slowdown in the second half performance because of
the hurricanes when overall tourist visits declined by 1.7%," said Ryan
Skeete, acting director of research.
Several destinations reported double-digit increases in
2017, including St. Lucia (11%), Belize (10.8%) and Bermuda (10.3%), while the
hurricane impacted countries recorded decreases ranging from 7% to 18%,
according to Skeete.
The U.S. market accounted for 14.9 million visitors,
followed by Europe with 5.8 million visitors. Canada rebounded last year,
growing 4.3% compared to a decline of 3.1% in 2016, CTO said.
Cruise arrivals set a record in 2017, reaching an estimated
27 million, a 2.4% increase.
Again, the number would have been significantly higher if
not for the hurricanes. Cruise arrivals grew by 4.6% in the first half of the
year, but contracted marginally (0.4%) in the second half. Cruise passenger
arrivals fell in September by 20%, but growth resumed in October, when arrivals
CTO secretary general Hugh Riley said that global economic
conditions "are expected to be favorable in 2018. Major economies are
projected to grow strongly, oil prices are expected to remain low and hourly
wages are expected to increase again in the U.S. following years of stagnation."
Riley also said the CTO considered unpredictable factors
that could suppress tourism -- political tensions, the threat of terrorist
attacks and extreme weather events -- in forecasting this year's results.
"Consequently, we are projecting that tourist arrivals
will increase between 2% and 3% in 2018," Riley said.