Remarkably, hurricanes didn't prevent record year for Caribbean arrivals

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Remarkably, hurricanes didn't prevent record year for Caribbean arrivals
Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

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 increased 3%.

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.

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