The Caribbean reached a milestone last year, welcoming over 30 million visitors for the first time in the tourism industry’s history, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley cautions that there is “more to be done”, however, as the numbers show arrivals were unevenly spread throughout the islands, with some destinations better than others at attracting the tourist dollar.
Caribbean tourism has been growing steadily over the last eight years and increased by 1.7% in 2017. Total visitor expenditure reached US$37bn, with stay-over arrivals providing the lion’s share of US$34.2bn.
“The performance in 2017 was primarily supported by sustained economic growth in all of our major source markets,” said Ryan Skeete, CTO Acting Director of Research in announcing the organization’s State of the Industry report. This was particularly evident in the United States where solid economic growth, low unemployment and high consumer confidence drove 14.9 million American tourists to visit the islands — a 0.5% increase from the previous year.
While the region performed well as a whole, some destinations showed a lacklustre performance. Hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through some islands in September 2017, causing widespread damage to tourism infrastructure and dampening interest from source markets. Tourism in some of the hurricane-impacted islands fell by as much as 18%.
By contrast, Saint Lucia was one of the year’s success stories, recording double-digit growth of 11%. Skeete attributed this to a number of factors including greater air access and high-profile investments in the industry such as new resorts and facilities. He added that destinations which saw growth in 2017 would also have benefitted from focused promotional efforts, saying: “Increased seat capacity, new room stock and improved marketing efforts would have contributed to the performances generally.”