Above: Dominica (CJ Photo)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The Caribbean received nearly 25 million tourists in 2012, a 5.4 percent increase from 2011, according to data released by the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The region received its largest number of stayover tourists in five years, the CTO said in a press briefing released by CTO Chairman Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
“The state of Caribbean tourism gives us reason to be optimistic,” she said. “The optimism is based on the positive signs of growth following earlier down years — the region, as a whole, has regained ground lost in the heat of the global economic depression in 2008/2009.”
Despite the improvement, Nicholson-Doty said there remained a “stark reality” that some Caribbean countries remained “hard pressed to recover,” particularly those that rely heavily on the British market.
The CTO Chairman said the UK’s traveling population continued to be “daunted” by an ailing economy and the “onerous” Air Passenger Duty, a tax on flights originating in the UK to which the CTO and the Caribbean at large have expressed opposition.
Cruise tourism has also been flat region-wide for each of the last three years, she said.
The Dutch Caribbean recorded 5.6 percent growth, however, due to rising activity in “all the reporting countries,” helped out by business from South America, particularly Curacao and Aruba.
The Spanish-speaking Caribbean’s growth, she said, was “buoyant.”
The US Caribbean territories were a bright spot, with a 6.8 percent increase in visitors.
That region recorded a 6 percent increase in 2012, driven by Mexico’s Caribbean region.
The US market also showed growth in 2012, with US arrivals up 4.1 percent in 2012, and Canadians showing a 5.9 percent improvement in 2012.
But the UK’s market remained “depressed” for several Caribbean countries, with a drop from 1.1 million land-based visitors from the UK in 2011 to 1 million in 2012, a drop of 10 percent.
Visitor spending did manage to increase in 2012, with a 3.6 percent improvement, the third consecutive year of increase.
Looking ahead, Nicholson-Doty said she expected the US and Canadian markets to continue to perform well, though travelers would likely continue to hold a tight purse.
“Barring any international or regional unforeseen economic or social trauma in 2013, the indicators of Caribbean tourism performance should continue to move in a positive direction,” she said.
That will manifest itself in growth of between 4 and 5 percent this year, she said.