Chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Beverly Nicholson-Doty, delivering the annual “State of the Industry Report” here on Monday, said that with the global economic crisis expected to improve in 2014, the demand for travel will remain buoyant.
“As a result, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean are expected to rise between two and three per cent in 2014,” she said, noting that it was evident that “the atmosphere of despair has lifted and the Caribbean anticipates an improved performance in 2014.
“Clearly, we continue to face challenges, therefore, we can be neither cocky, complacent or over confident. We have to fight to boost arrivals both from the traditional markets and new and emerging markets. The figures suggest that South America has immense potential,” she said.
Nicholson-Doty said cruise activity is also expected to pick up in 2014with some of the new ships expected to be deployed in the region.
“The CTO predicts that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean will increase by about three per cent in 2014,” she added.
Nicholson-Doty said the regional tourist industry was showing signs of positive progress, adding “one of the most powerful signs of this progress is the rise in estimated visitor spend, with expenditure growing quicker than visitor arrivals for the first time in three years.
“We see this progress in the record number of overall arrivals in 2013. This progress is 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 there’s progress when a record number of Caribbean residents travelled within the region for touristic purposes, despite transportation challenges. “
She said the strongest indicator of progress is the rate of visitor expenditure.
“Fuelled by the accommodation sector, visitors to the region spent over US$28 billion in 2013, an increase of 2.3 per cent when compared to 2012. The hotel sector performed even better, recording a rise of over seven-and-a-half per cent in room revenues. During this period all the performance indicators remained positive,” she said.
She quoted industry travel researches as indicating that the average room rates were up nearly US$10 to US$186 US and that the average revenue per available room also grew by about 10 dollars to US$125 dollars. Occupancy levels were at 67 per cent, directly in line with pre-crisis levels.
But the top regional tourism official said that these positive signs were 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 per cent rise in 2012. Still the Caribbean welcomed over 25 million stayover visitors last year, up from 24.6 million in 2012,” she said.
She said in March last year, nearly three million tourists visited the Caribbean, a 5.5 per cent increase over the previous record of nearly 2.34 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. The summer season runs from May to December.
She said the 1.8 per cent rise is an indication that the momentum experienced over the previous two years has slowed, due mainly to the relatively weak economic conditions in the key markets.
“However, while the main source markets are sputtering, tourists from South America are flocking to the region in large numbers.
“The total number of arrivals from that region 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 a whopping 70 per cent over 2009. This is due to the strong economies in South America, particularly Brazil and Venezuela.”
Nicholson-Doty said that statistics show that arrivals to the 18-nation Commonwealth Caribbean declined by half a percentage point in 2013, with the countries of sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) recording marginal growth of 0.1 per cent. Arrivals to the Other Commonwealth countries fell slightly by 0.6 per cent.
On the other hand, the group of Dutch Caribbean countries performed well compared to the wider Caribbean. These territories saw a near five per cent rise in their figures, fuelled mainly by an 18 per cent upsurge in travel from South America. Arrivals from the more traditional US markets were up just under 3,5 per cent.