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Caribbean tourism experiences strong growth in 2023, recovery to continue into 2024

Caribbean-Tourism-Performance-Review-2023

The recovery of global tourism has been resilient, despite variability in the regional performances, according to Secretary-General of the CTO Dona Regis-Prosper, with the Caribbean surpassing pre-pandemic arrivals by a modest 0.8%, outperforming most of the main global regions in terms of recovery.

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS – Continuing its positive recovery trend, Caribbean tourism grew in 2023 with an estimated 14.3% increase in international stay-over arrivals to the region, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has reported.

Delivering the “Caribbean Tourism Performance Review 2023” in Bridgetown, Dona Regis-Prosper, Secretary-General of the CTO, shared that last year’s growth was in line with CTO’s forecast for the year, and attributed the outcome to sustained demand for outbound travel from the United States – the Caribbean’s main source market, enhanced tourism-related infrastructure within the destinations, the fulfillment of strategic marketing initiatives, and augmented airlift capacity between the region and its source markets, albeit unevenly distributed among the destinations.

“Based on preliminary data provided so far by the destinations in the Caribbean, tourist visits were approximately 32.2 million – about four million more than in 2022,” stated Regis-Prosper, who noted that the data showed that each month’s arrivals exceeded those of 2022 thus establishing a continuous growth trend over the past 33 months as tourism steadily rebounded toward pre-pandemic levels.

Arrival levels amongst Caribbean destinations either significantly recovered or moderately exceeded the benchmark numbers of 2019, with 11 destinations, Anguilla, Aruba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Turks & Caicos Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands performing better than in 2019. The majority of those recovered greater than 50% of their 2019 arrivals. In addition, multiple destinations registered new record levels for tourist arrivals in a single year.

United States and Canada Markets

For the Caribbean, only the U.S. market has fully recovered, while the recovery rates of arrivals from Europe and Canada reached 88.2% and 88.1%, respectively. An estimated 16.3 million stay-over arrivals to the region came from the United States, representing an annual growth rate of 12.7%. The performance here established a new record level of arrivals from this market and surpassed the pre-pandemic arrivals by 4.2%. The performance of the Canadian market resulted in an estimated three million Canadian tourist visits by the end of the year, an increase of 46.1% compared to 2022. Increased air service from major Canadian cities to Caribbean destinations played a pivotal role in driving up visitor numbers.

Europe, Caribbean and South America Markets

Regis-Prosper noted that arrivals from Europe to the Caribbean region were stagnant in 2023. A total of approximately 5.2 million trips originated from the market. In 2023, travel among Caribbean residents to destinations within the region increased by approximately 3.6%, a total of 1.6 million trips, which was 0.3 million more compared to 2022. This also indicated a recovery of 62.5% from pre-pandemic levels. “Despite this positive outcome, intra-regional travel remained expensive due to fragmented air service and reduced air capacity,” said Regis-Prosper. By the end of the year, trips from South America to the region surged by an estimated 14%, totaling 1.7 million trips.

Caribbean Hotel Performance

The Caribbean hotel sector experienced a remarkable turnaround in 2023, including a surge in the establishment of new hotels and resorts. According to STR, throughout the Caribbean, average room occupancy grew to 65.6% in 2023 from 61% in 2022. The average daily rate (ADR) experienced a considerable increase of 11.8% with the region’s ADR reaching US$329.37 while the revenue per available room (RevPAR) jumped 20.2% to US$215.97.

Cruise Tourism Performance

Preliminary data for 2023 showed that Caribbean destinations received an estimated 31.1 million cruise visits, reflecting an increase of 11.3 million visits or 56.8% compared to 2019. This level established a new record for the regional cruise sector, surpassing the previous record of 2019 by 2.4%. Pent-up demand and the resumption of operations drove strong bookings for Caribbean cruises, along with improvements in cruise infrastructure such as larger ships, enhanced facilities, itineraries, and shore excursions.

Projections indicate that the cruise sector will continue its upward track, with an estimated 34.2 million to 35.8 million cruise visits expected in the Caribbean in 2024. This anticipated expansion falls within the range of 10% and 15%.

Remarkable Resilience

Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, Kenneth Bryan, who also serves as the Cayman Islands’ Minister of Tourism and Ports, noted the remarkable resilience of the tourism industry and its ongoing recovery and growth in 2023. However, he emphasized that the industry and the region will continue to face an array of challenges, including the high cost of travel, ongoing conflicts, heightened geopolitical tensions, and their anticipated impacts, in 2024.

“Caribbean destinations remain adaptable and responsive, and the region is still highly desired by travelers for its safety and diversity of tourism products,” stated Chairman Bryan, adding that the region will also be positively impacted by key developments in 2024, including increased air capacity throughout the year, which will facilitate greater access between the destinations and some of their legacy and emerging markets.

Chairman Bryan also pointed to “intensive strategic marketing initiatives” that are being executed to attract visitors to the region to enjoy its culture and heritage, including its carnivals and festivals.

He noted that the CTO is pleased that the ICC (International Cricket Council) Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 is being hosted in several destinations bringing not only teams but also their loyal followers to the region and further raising awareness and promoting the diverse offerings of Caribbean destinations to global audiences.

“Hence, the Caribbean’s prospects appear highly promising, with more regional destinations poised to either match or surpass the arrival figures recorded in 2019. Anticipated growth is forecast to range between five percent and 10 percent, potentially welcoming between 33.8 million and 35.4 million stay-over tourists,” concluded Chairman Bryan.

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