by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Mr. Neil Walters, said the performance of the Caribbean’s Tourism sector showed strong rebounds in 2022.
“Today, we can confirm that in 2022, the second full year of the global pandemic, the Caribbean Tourism Industry was resilient and built on the rebound that was noticeable from the middle of 2021. By the end of 2022, there were 28.3 million registered tourist visits in the Caribbean, approximately 52. 4 percent more than they were in 2021. The region accounted for 3.1 percent of all arrivals worldwide, down [by] 1 percentage point from the historically high share of 4.1 percent recorded in 2021. The 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022 made up 88.6 percent of the visitors who arrived in 2019, which served as a baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic; thus, the Caribbean was one of the regions with the quickest recovery rate globally in 2022.”
While speaking at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Press Conference on Tuesday, March 07, 2023, Walters highlighted the Caribbean’s resilience despite the surge in a new Coronavirus variant and other external shocks.
“Despite the discovery of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus and the reinstatement of some temporary bands in a few locations in January, demand for Caribbean vacation was usually strong. Not only were there more visitors each month than in the corresponding months of 2021, but there was also a gradual return to 2019 levels which was an indication of ongoing improvement. There were 1.7 million tourist visits during the winter season from January to April 2022, 121.4 more than in the winter season in 2021. During the summer, from April to December 2022, 19.1 million tourists visited, 32.6 more than for the same time in 2021.”
Walters added that all 27 Caribbean destinations showed an increase in stay-over arrivals compared to 2021. Of them, 14 destinations saw an increase in arrivals in one or more months in 2022 compared to a similar period in 2019. Six destinations, the US Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Curacao, surpassed their pre-pandemic arrival figures. However, “⅓ of the remaining destinations have recovered at least 80 percent of their pre-pandemic arrivals,” Walters said.
The relaxation of international travel restrictions, travel demands to the United States, strategic marketing initiatives and the restoration of some airlift capacity between regional and international markets were listed as factors that contributed to the positive results in the region’s tourism market.
Notwithstanding the positive performance and outlook of the region’s tourism industry, information from the CTO reveals that the Tourism sector encountered several challenges in 2022; “rising prices, intermittent supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, shortages and disputes, global inflation and heightened geopolitical tension.”
Meanwhile, the CTO’s Secretary General said that the US travel markets continue to drive the recovery of Caribbean Tourism, adding that travel from the US market had the fastest rebound from the Pandemic. Walters said once the US market began to rebound, its residents took outbound trips to the Caribbean, thus boosting the region’s tourism sector. At the end of 2022, 14.6 million tourists from the US market visited the region, which was 3.2 million more than 11.4 million American visitors in 2021. The US market, however, accounted for 51.5 percent of all arrivals in the region in 2022.
Notwithstanding global pressures like high inflation, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, as well as the impeded economic recession, it is expected that travel to the region will increase further in 2023.
Walters said, “When compared to 2022, it is expected that overall arrivals to the region will increase by between 10 and 15 percent. This means that between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists can be expected to visit the region this year, thus tourists arrivals this year might surpass pre-pandemic levels.”
As recognised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the Caribbean includes the countries in the continental geographical region, as well as Belize, Suriname and Guyana, on towards Mexico in Central America.