NEW YORK -- What's sometimes up, sometimes down, often unknown and
harder to get than an airline ticket at Christmas?
Destination visitor figures.
The figures are just one method of gauging how well or how
poorly a region is doing.
In the Caribbean, some islands report these findings
Some break the figures out by market; others tabulate charts on
air arrivals, cruise calls and hotel registrations.
Some islands do nothing.
What's known thus far from figures released by the Caribbean
Tourism Organization: Lenny, the storm that careened from west to
east last November, contributed to visitor declines on Anguilla,
Antigua & Barbuda and St. Maarten this year.
Hotel closings meant fewer rooms last winter. Visitors went
However, all is not bleak. These islands anticipate a strong
year-end finish due to reopened hotels.
Airlift is another barometer pushing stats up or down.
CTO's Michael Youngman, director of marketing, put it
succinctly: "The destinations with decent air access are doing
well. It's that basic."
CTO's figures bear him out. For example, Aruba is up 12.4% in
air arrivals through June.
Marcial "Charly" Ibarra, North American director of the Aruba
Tourism Authority, said increased lift accounted for the "record
numbers" of U.S. arrivals this year.
The Bahamas, too, could set records this year, due in part to
airlift, said Vernice Walkine, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
The Bahamas does not break figures out by market. The U.S.
accounts for approximately 68% of arrivals, which topped 2.6
million through July, a 14.3% jump over the same period last
On the flip side, Bonaire's arrivals' drop is linked "to airlift
problems," said Elsmarie Beukenboom, head of tourism.
However, eight weekly ALM and Air Jamaica flights address the
problems, she said.
What else helps get those numbers up?
Product, for one thing.
Puerto Rico, up 5.2% through May, will maintain the momentum,
according to Jose Corujo, executive director of Puerto Rico Tourism
He cited the island's targeted marketing, hotel openings and
increased air as reasons.
Rafael Jackson, U.S. Virgin Islands director of tourism, said a
TV ad campaign this spring heightened awareness.
"We had one of our best summers ever," he said.
The year-to-date looks good, too. The U.S.V.I. posted a 10.5%
increase in air arrivals in the first seven months.
After a disappointing first quarter, Curacao tourism officials
brainstormed with several wholesalers and came up with an
"aggressive" co-op campaign, according to Ygmar Wiel, tourism
director for North America.
"Since May, our numbers are up. We hope to end slightly over
'99," he said.
Islands in the hurricane belt remain wary.
Weather issues dominate bookings, particularly from August
Youngman said that "travel is conditioned by weather. What looks
good one minute can change in an instant when a tropical storm