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The Caribbean Vacation Is Back in a Big Way 

It began when the Caribbean was the first global destination to see any of its destinations reopen for tourism at the peak of the pandemic.

Quickly, travelers around the world were drawn to the Caribbean, for the region’s outstanding health-protocol stewardship and for its unrivaled space and natural environment – a pandemic premium for many travelers, and a trend that hasn’t abated.

And the recovery, well, hasn’t really slowed since — simply put, more and more travelers want Caribbean vacations, and the numbers are proving it.

The Caribbean travel industry is in the midst of a “strong recovery,” according to the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the outlook for 2023 is even stronger. 

Caribbean Vacation
Brewer’s Bay in St Thomas, USVI, one of the Caribbean destinations that eclipsed its pre-pandemic totals last year.

After recovering almost 90 percent of its pre-pandemic totals last year, the Caribbean “might surpass pre-pandemic arrivals” in 2023, according to Neil Walters, acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. 

By the end of last year, the Caribbean registered more than 28.3 million tourist arrivals in 2022, about 88.6 percent of the number of tourists who visited the region in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. 

That made the Caribbean one of the most resilient tourism regions on earth last year, accounting for 3.1 percent of all tourist arrivals worldwide. 

Overall, the CTO is projecting growth in Caribbean tourism arrivals of between 10 and 15 percent, working out to between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists expected to visit the region this year. 

Bonaire Caribbean Vacation
The beach at the Harbour Village resort in Bonaire, which is now seeing tourism levels past 2019.

That would, if on the high end, eclipse the region’s 2019 totals, Walters said. 

Overall, six Caribbean destinations eclipsed their pre-pandemic arrival totals last year: the US Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Curacao. 

On the hotel side, occupancy regionally reached 60.7 percent last year, up from a pandemic-impacted 44.4 percent in 2021, although that number was significantly higher on many destinations. 

Average daily rates actually increased last year by 21.7 percent, while revenues surged by $66.4 per available room. 

The United States still dominates the Caribbean travel landscape, with a 28.1 percent increase in vacations to the Caribbean by Americans last year — accounting for a total of 14.6 million American tourists visiting the region in 2022 — or more than half of all arrivals to the region. 

Europeans, too, were focused on the Caribbean last year, with a resurgence in European travel and an increase in European arrivals by 81 percent compared to 2021, totaling 5.2 million visitors to the Caribbean. (That was 87.7 percent of European visitation in 2019). 

all-inclusive resorts caribbean best
Palm Island in the Grenadines.

After two years of heavy travel restrictions, Canadians began the climb toward approaching pre-pandemic visitation levels to the Caribbean, with a total of 2.1 million visitors last year. 

That said, the Canadian market still has shown the lowest level of recovery for the Caribbean — something that also represents a significant opportunity for the region in 2023. 

On the cruise side, the industry is projected to continue its recovery and expand beyond it. 

Current projections for Caribbean cruising stand at between 32 million and 33 million cruise passenger visits overall, which would be a 5 to 10 recent increase over 2019 levels. 

It all adds up to a dramatic resurgence for the Caribbean — and a reminder of the enduring appeal of the Caribbean vacation. 

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