Caribbean Has Promising Outlook for 2023: CTO

The outlook for Caribbean travel and tourism is favorable despite global pressures such as high inflation, the war in Ukraine, the ensuing energy crisis and an impending economic recession, according to the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). Delivering the region’s 2022 “Tourism Performance and Outlook Report” in Bridgetown, Neil Walters, acting secretary general of the CTO, confirmed that the Caribbean had one of the quickest recovery rates globally in 2022, with 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022— representing 88.6 percent of the visitors who arrived in 2019, which served as the baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic.

Walters reported that international travel is expected to contribute to the region’s substantial gains already registered thanks to the U.S. market, which continues to drive the region’s recovery. There was an estimated 28.1 percent increase in visitors coming from the U.S. market in 2022. At the end of the year, 14.6 million American tourists visited the region, 3.2 million more than the 11.4 million in 2021.

Arrivals from the European market increased by 81 percent in 2022 when compared to 2021. The 5.2 million tourists from this market were almost double the 2.8 million in 2021. This represented 18.3 percent of all arrivals in 2022. Due to travel restrictions in early 2022, the Canadian market has recovered more slowly at 60 percent, while the lack of availability of intra-regional airlift has negatively impacted regional connectivity.

“Nearly 90 percent of the region’s travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered,” said Walters, with destinations such as Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands already exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Caribbean destinations can expect this recovery to continue into 2023, albeit at a slower rate, Walters explained, predicting that growth will be uneven among the destinations, with additional countries and territories surpassing their 2019 levels.

According to STR, the average daily rate at hotels increased by 21.7 percent to $290.60 last year. The revenue per available room surged by 66.4 percent to $176.46, and the number of available rooms (up 4.4 percent) as well as room income (up 73.6 percent) increased. After two challenging years for the aviation industry, global air passenger traffic recovered significantly in 2022.

It is estimated that visitors to the Caribbean region spent between $36.5 and $37.5 billion in 2022, an increase of 70 to 75 percent compared to 2021.

It is expected that overall arrivals to the region will increase by between 10 and 15 percent when compared to 2022, with 31.2 to 32.6 million tourists visiting the region this year. The cruise industry is also anticipated to continue recovering and expanding to meet increasing demand, with 32 to 33 million cruise passenger visits expected—a five to 10 percent increase over the pre-COVID baseline figure.

Chairman of the CTO’s council of ministers and commissioners of tourism, Kenneth Bryan, who also serves as the Cayman Islands’ minister of tourism and transport, summarized that in the face of the devastating blows delivered by the pandemic, “as a region, we have responded with hope, strength and the determination to prevail.” Bryan reiterated that great strides have been made in Caribbean tourism, the pace of recovery will continue into 2023 and beyond. “So, although we have not yet surpassed 2019’s numbers across the board in every jurisdiction, the needle is certainly moving in the right direction,” he said.

Bryan envisioned 2023 as a period of growth and development for the CTO, and he and his team were laser-focused on growing the membership, including countries, territories and allied partners. “It is also my intention to strengthen the relationships with other organizations, such as the United Nations World Travel Organization, the World Travel & Tourism Council, and even the Central American Tourism Agency (CATA), to foster greater collaboration,” he said. Consideration is being given to the restructuring of the organization and reforming its strategic vision and direction for the next five years, which includes the appointment of a new secretary-general, he confirmed.

Announcing the return of CTO’s “Caribbean Week” in New York, to be held from June 5–8, 2023, Bryan said his team was committed to addressing the nagging issue of air connectivity, a complex one that has been exacerbated by the re-evaluation of airline business structures and the global pilot shortage. “It would be illogical for me to promise a solution to this issue during my tenure as chairman. But what I can and will commit to is getting the players around the table to forensically examine what we need to do as a unified region to improve this scenario and start the ball rolling towards the solution.”

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