The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) recently held a news conference in New York in which CTO Chairman Beverly Nicholson-Doty delivered a State of the Industry Report, telling attendees that one of the strongest indicators of progress is the rise in estimated visitor spending, with expenditure growing faster than visitor arrivals for the first time in three years.
"We see progress in the record number of overall arrivals in 2013," says Nicholson-Doty. "Progress is also manifested in the rapid rise in the number of visitors from South America who are coming to the Caribbean in record numbers. You can tell the industry is improving when a record number of Caribbean residents travelled within the region for leisure, despite the high cost of regional transportation."
"Fuelled by the accommodations sector, visitors to the region spent more than 28 billion dollars in 2013, an increase of 2.3 per cent when compared to 2012," she says. "The hotel sector performed even better, recording a rise of more than seven-and-a-half per cent in room revenues. During this period all the performance indicators remained positive."
According to Smith Travel Research, average room rates were up nearly $10 to $186 dollars, the average revenue per available room also grew by about $10 to $125 and occupancy levels were at 67 percent, directly in line with pre-crisis levels.
"In fact, there wasn’t a single month during 2013 that any of these indicators fell below 2012 levels," says Nicholson-Doty.
However, these positive signs are tempered somewhat by the fact that the overall growth rate slowed last year in comparison to 2012. Mixed performance among the destinations resulted in a one-point-eight per cent rise in tourist arrivals, a lot slower than the 4.9 percent rise in 2012.
Still the Caribbean welcomed more than 25 million stayover visitors last year, up from 24.6 million in 2012.
Of note, says Nicholson-Doty, is the record number of arrivals in March when nearly three million tourists visited the Caribbean. That’s five-and-a-half per cent higher than the previous record of nearly two-and-three-quarter million in 2008 and 6.6 per cent above the 2.6 million who came in March 2012.
The Caribbean also recorded growth in stop-over arrivals during each month of the summer season, with the exception of July and September, which were flat. For statistics purposes, the summer season runs from May to mid-December.
The 1.8 percent rise is an indication that the momentum experienced over the previous two years has slowed, due mainly to the relatively weak economic conditions in key markets.
"However, while the main source markets are recovering, tourists from South America are flocking to the region in large numbers," she says. "The total number of arrivals from that market climbed from an estimated 859 thousand in 2009 to nearly one-and-a-half million last year. That’s 13 per cent higher than 2012 and an impressive 70 per cent over 2009. This is due to the strong economies in South America, particularly Brazil."