Caribbean Travel Industry Overview
Tourism is one of the Caribbean economy's most important sectors, responsible for 15.2% of the Gross Domestic Product, with the Dominican Republic being its most popular destination. After the loss of tourism with the 2017 hurricane season, the Caribbean had 29.9 million tourist visits in 2018, with a 9.8% increase at the end of the year.
- Tourism is one of the Caribbean economy's most important sectors.
- Approximately 46.7 million of its international visitors spent $31.4 billion in 2016, which helped support 2.4 million jobs.
- The domestic market comprises more than 25% of the region's Travel & Tourism GDP.
- "Travel & Tourism" adds 15.2% of the GDP and 13.8% of employment in the Caribbean.
2017 HURRICANE SEASON
- The Caribbean tourism sector was experiencing a strong year before the hurricane season of 2017, with a growth in demand of more than 4%.
- Irma, the strongest hurricane ever observed in the open Atlantic Ocean, directly hit the Caribbean islands of Barbuda, St Maarten, St Barthélemy, Anguilla, the US, and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and Cuba.
- Because of the disaster, in September 2017, tourism started to experience losses, "with demand declining by 4% or more" compared to the previous year.
- According to an analysis, this hurricane season resulted in an approximate loss of 826,100 international visitors, which is equivalent to $741 million in visitor spending, $292.5 million in GDP, and 11,005 supported jobs.
- In terms of tourism and spending, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic were the most affected.
- The hurricane season damaged many hotels, reducing the number of hotel rooms available on the affected islands, including Anguilla, the British and US Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Maarten/St. Martin and Barbuda, and Puerto Rico.
MARKET SIZE AND GROWTH
- The Caribbean had 29.9 million tourist visits in 2018, the second-highest on record, after the 30.6 million visitors recorded in 2017.
- With registered declines during the first eight months of 2018, the region recorded a 3% rise in September, an 11.8% growth in October, and by the end of the year, tourist arrivals were up 9.8%.
- Despite this data, 2018 arrivals numbers showed a 2.3% fall, "the first decline in annual tourist arrivals in nine years."
- The market share of global visits in the same year shrank by 0.2%, to 2.1% of the market.
- Total visitor spending went down by 1% to $38.3 billion.
- Tourist arrivals in countries such as Guyana, Belize, the Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, and Grenada reported double-digit increases; while the hurricane-impacted countries recorded double-digit declines.
- In the first three months of 2019, there were 9.1 million international tourist arrivals to the region, with an increase of almost 970,000 visitors.
- Canada outperformed the other markets in 2018 with 3.9 million visits to the Caribbean.
- "Intra-regional travel had its best performance ever," with 2 million visits, followed by South America, with 1.9 million visits.
- Arrivals from Europe improved by 1.3%, and UK arrivals maintained an estimated 1.3 million.
- The 13.9 million American tourist visits that year represented a 6.3% fall, due to declines in visitors to popular destinations impacted by the hurricanes, such as Puerto Rico and St. Maarten.
- The US market saw a fourth-quarter growth of 28% (September to December period).
LEADING TYPES OF TRAVEL
- The cruise travel sector had "its best performance ever" in 2018, with an estimated 28.9 million passenger visits, representing a rise of 6.7%.
- The cruise growth was seen as cruise ships returned to the ports and many hubs were rebuilt after the hurricane season.
- Air capacity in 2018 decreased by 3.4%, while the number of flights declined by 4.3%. However, in the fourth quarter, the seating capacity had a 5.3% rise, while frequency grew by 5.2%.
POPULAR TIMES OF THE YEAR
- According to Caribbean & Co., February is the most popular month of the year to visit the Caribbean.
- According to a travel expert and USA Today, the best months to visit the Caribbean are January through April.
- The high season in the Caribbean (full resorts and pricier flights) is the period from mid-December to mid-April.
- The most popular destination in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic, with 6.18 million visitors in 2017.
- Cuba is the next most popular Caribbean country for traveling, with 3.9 million visitors in 2017.
- These are followed by Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas.
- Other popular destinations include Aruba, US Virgin Islands, Barbados, Martinique, and St. Maarten.