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From the US Virgin Islands to Aruba, Caribbean Travel Is Booming

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Eagle Beach in Aruba.

First there was the breakout after restrictions were lifted. Then there was all that pent-up travel demand. Through each phase of the post-pandemic period, travelers have continued flocking to the Caribbean. 

It’s the sign of a resilient global destination, and the Caribbean continues to captivate.

In other words, they just keep coming, according to a new report from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization. Travel to the Caribbean is just plain surging, with tourism arrivals in the region climbing 14.3 percent last year, according to the CTO. 

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The new Westin in St Thomas.

In all, that represented a total of 32.2 million stayover arrivals in 2023, an increase of more than four million from 2022. 

Hotels continue to fill up — with occupancy up to 65.6 percent, while daily rates are up nearly 12 percent in the same period. 

It’s been a pervasive, resilient recovery, with the Caribbean outpacing most of the main global travel regions, according to Donna Regis-Prosper, Secretary General of the CTO. 

Just about everywhere in the Caribbean is seeing travel numbers either at or ahead of where they were prior to the pandemic, and at least 11 destinations have surpassed their benchmark numbers of 2019, from Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St Maarten in the northern Caribbean. Other destinations, from Antigua and Barbuda to the Cayman Islands, continue to see sustained recoveries.

Many of those destinations have set new records, including hotspots like the Dominican Republic, Bonaire and Curacao, both of which surpassed their all-time records last year (the Dominican Republic set an all-time record for the whole Caribbean, too, with almost 8 million stopover arrivals). 

The US market has fully recovered from the Caribbean standpoint, while European and Canadian visitors are nearing 90 percent of their pre-Covid totals. 

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The beach at the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada.

And the recovery isn’t just on land; the all-important Caribbean cruise industry also reported a new record, with 31.1 million cruise visits for the year – a 2.4 percent jump over 2019, anchored by the sizzling cruise numbers in the region’s busiest port, Nassau.

“The Caribbean’s prospects appear highly promising, with more regional destinations poised to either match or surpass the arrival figures recorded in 2019,” said Cayman Islands Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, who is the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism. “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 [in 2024].”

In other words, the Caribbean is still in very high demand — and travelers just keep coming. 

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