Performance of regional tourism sector described as ‘tale of two situations’

Performance of regional tourism sector described as ‘tale of two situations’

NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — Caribbean tourism experienced contrasting performances over the last year with the newly appointed chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, (CTO), Dominic Fedee, describing the experiences as a “a tale of two situations”.

“On the one hand, we have robust growth in countries that were not affected by last year’s hurricanes. On the other, we have seen dramatic decreases in arrivals to those hit by the storms, although the performances of these countries are steadily improving,” Fedee said in a statement read out at a news conference on the final day of the CTO sponsored State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC).

But in his statement, which was delivered by CTO Secretary General, Hugh Riley, the St Lucia tourism minister said that the region’s competitive advantages of a diverse tourism product and safety and security are still intact.

“Destinations are rebuilding, and new tourism products and services are being restored daily in the destinations impacted by last year’s hurricanes. Our research department anticipates an overall decline of between three and four per cent this year, but predicts a 4.3 per cent increase next year.”

Fedee said cruise, on the other hand, is projected to grow by five per cent to six per cent this year.

He told reporters that of the 22 reporting destinations, 13 of them registered increases in tourist arrivals during the first half of the year, ranging from 1.7 per cent to 18.3, while seven recorded decreases of between a negligible -0.3 per cent and 71 per cent.

He said the top performing destination during this period were Guyana at 18.3 per cent, Belize at 17.1 per cent, the Cayman Islands at 15.9 per cent, and Grenada at 10.7 per cent and the Bahamas at 10.2 per cent.

“These individual results substantiate the regional messaging of the openness of the destinations for business and the confidence in destinations to deliver quality experiences. The performances of the key source markets varied considerably, with some destinations recording strong growth, while others registered declines,” the St Lucia tourism minister said.

He said in the US market, for example, while Jamaica reported growth of 8.4 per cent, the Dominican Republic was up by 6.3 per cent and 11 other destinations achieved growth, six of which were by double digits, the Caribbean received seven million visits from the US during the first half of the year.

“This was a 15.8 per cent decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year, due mainly to a 54.6 per cent fall in arrivals to Puerto Rico and decreases in arrivals to Cuba. On the other hand, there was a new record in arrivals from Canada for this time of year, with 2.4 million overnight international tourists, representing a 4.7 per cent increase.”

Fedee said arrivals from Europe also increased, though marginally at 0.3 per cent, with three million tourists visiting the Caribbean during the first half of the year.
He said Belize led the way with 24.3 per cent growth, followed by Guyana at 9.4 per cent, Curacao 6.2 per cent and St Lucia at 4.5 per cent.

However, overall growth was impacted by steep falls in arrivals to Anguilla, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

Fedee said that there was also a marginal decline of 0.5 per cent in cruise visits, although there are signs of improvement.
He said of the 23 reporting destinations, 15 realised improvement upon their 2017 performances with Trinidad & Tobago registering increases of 166 per cent, St Vincent & the Grenadines up by 84 per cent and Martinique at 54.7 per cent, leading on growth rates.

“However, this was countered by declines of nearly 90 per cent in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica was down by 88.4 per cent, St Maarten down 27.5 per cent, and the US Virgin Islands decreased by 22.5 per cent. Puerto Rico, though hurricane-impacted, posted a 1.1 per cent increase during the period.”

Fedee said that the region’s competitive advantages of a diverse tourism product and safety and security are still intact.

“Destinations are rebuilding, and new tourism products and services are being restored daily in the destinations impacted by last year’s hurricanes. Our research department anticipates an overall decline of between three and four per cent this year, but predicts a 4.3 per cent increase next year.”
Fedee said cruise, on the other hand, is projected to grow by five per cent to six per cent this year.

Fedee, who will chair the CTO for the next two years, said he remains excited at the prospects for the CTO and the critical role it can play in unifying the Caribbean, not simply as a tourism destination, but as a people destined for greatness.

“I’m convinced that a well-supported, well-funded, CTO can take its place alongside other venerable institutions to lift the people of the Caribbean to incredible heights that are attainable but not yet achieved.

“The organisation’s leadership in tourism and its contribution to the development of our human resources will help drive strong economies and build reliable, competent and productive workforces and Caribbean populations that are ready to face an ever-changing global environment.”

He said the CTO’s leadership was on full display this week through the experts brought here to share insights into how the region can better build a lasting and sustainable tourism sector that will benefit every individual, every community, every country in this region.

“We dared to challenge the region to build better, not just the infrastructure, but the entire industry. We explored applicable recommendations for the use of technology, not only to improve the visitors’ experience, but our lot as a people. We boldly tackled controversial issues such as commoditising our cultures without exploiting them and embracing the Caribbean as a region of roots.

“We brought these issues to the forefront not because they’re popular, but because we are convinced they must be successfully addressed sooner rather than later, if we are to truly build a Caribbean tourism industry for the future,” he added.

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