“As the Caribbean tourism sector prepares to welcome the New Year, we look forward to 2019 with a sense of optimism, excitement and much hope,” Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said in a written release. Much of the optimism is focused on the continued rebuilding from 2017’s hurricanes: “We are pleased to report that tourism accommodations are being rebuilt and reopened, airports are receiving their full schedule of flights with the return of airlines in full force and the diverse product offerings within our destinations are being restored,” he says.
In addition to increasing overnight stays, Riley notes an increase in cruise visitors. Regarding the cruise industry, most ports have been repaired and reopened and cruise calls have returned to their normal levels. Riley reports that cruise visits grew each month since May 2018, with the region registering growth of 13.7 percent from May to September and of 17.1 percent in Q3 of 2018.
To show that the destination is open—and resilient—it released its “The Rhythm Never Stops” campaign on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook. That positive outlook is continuing in 2019, Riley says.
“We’re quite excited about declaring 2019 as the ‘Year of Festivals’ in the Caribbean,” he adds. “Simply stated, there’s a rhythm to the region that cannot be replicated anywhere on earth.”
The festivals—which will range from music, art and literature to sailing and dance, food and rum, religious and more—are expected to become an integral part of the Caribbean tourism calendar. “Festivals help energize communities across the region, while giving visitors more reasons to enjoy our destinations,” Riley says.
Despite the optimism, there is still caution from many in the region, “since there’s still much work to be done,” as Riley notes. “While preliminary data from our member countries revealed increased demand for travel to the vast majority of the 24 reporting countries, and despite a 9.1 percent increase in arrivals in September 2018 when compared to the same month in 2017, overall our performance was still down in 2018,” he adds.
To help bolster the region, the islands will continue to market themselves as a “unified Caribbean,” which has given the region a global advantage that its individual member countries had not been able to attain on their own. “The success of our countries rests upon our ability to speak as a region with one strong voice,” Riley says.
“Without doubt, our region is in a stronger position than it was a year ago. We are encouraged by the prospect of even greater collaboration with our partners in the industry, including the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association, and a range of travel professionals and industry partners who consistently offer Caribbean holiday experiences to their best clients,” Riley says.