The Caribbean recorded a six per cent increase in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year, Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Richard Sealy has said.
Sealy, who is also the Barbados Minister of Tourism, is attending the CTO sponsored Caribbean Tourism Week in New York, said that the Caribbean continues its rapid growth rate from 2014 when arrivals grew by 5.3 per cent to 26.3 million visitors
“We’ve bolted out of the gates with a six per cent rise in arrivals over the first quarter of 2014. Arrivals to the Caribbean estimated to be 7.9 million in the first three months. This is the fifth consecutive year in which arrivals grew during the first quarter and the 17th quarter of continuous growth,” he said.
Sealy said that the United States market “continues to be our most productive,” with arrivals from that market showing an increase of 5.6 per cent.
The Canadian market grew an equally impressive 5.4 per cent with Cuba and Dominican Republic among the destinations recording higher levels of arrivals
In the accommodation sector, all leading hotel performance indicators were positive.
There was a modest increase of 1.3 per cent in the number of rooms available in the first quarter, the largest increase for this quarter in the last seven years
Historical first quarters highs were also recorded for Room Occupancy (77.8%), Average Daily Rate (US$239.84) and Revenue per Available Room (US188.25)
In cruise, passenger arrivals slowed in the first quarter with the Caribbean registering a 3.4 per cent rise, compared to a 4.3 per cent growth in 2014 over 2013
An estimated 8.6 million cruise passengers visited the region in the first quarter with the best performing destinations being the French island of Martinique (34.2%), Puerto Rico (26.2%), Antigua & Barbuda (18.6%) and Jamaica (15.9%).
Sealy said that the outlook for the remainder of the year is positive with growth expected to be moderate and uneven among member countries
“However, overall tourist arrivals are now anticipated to rise at least six per cent over 2014, In the cruise sector, the momentum gained in the first quarter could be reduced as cruise ships are repositioned away from the region,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sealy said that the region is not overly concerned about Cuba as a competitor, now that the United States is improving ties with the Communist island.
Seal said more tourists visiting Cuba will be a good thing for the Caribbean on a whole.
“Cuba is not a problem for the CTO or the Caribbean. We are not afraid of what is happening in Cuba. As a matter of fact Cuba is a member of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and has been for some time,” Sealy told reporters.
With only the US restricting travel, three million foreigners arrived in Cuba last year, according to the government, making it the second-most visited island in the Caribbean after the Dominican Republic, which attracted more than five million visitors.
Cuba’s largest source market - Canada, is also a major source market for other countries in the Caribbean.
“Canadians love Cuba and we are already trying to get business from Canada alongside of Cuba so the competition from Cuba is not new,” Sealy said.
“Where I’m from, in Barbados, the United Kingdom is our largest source market and so I have to compete against Cuba to get Brits because they are going to Cuba and that is the simple reality – 56,000 rooms and three million tourists a year, Cuba is already a player in tourism. And for us in the CTO and for those of us involved in tourism in the Caribbean Cuba is not new.
“More people coming to Cuba mean more people coming to the Caribbean and therefore the natural thinking of us at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation is that it can only auger well for us. Those persons who were not previously coming to the region that are now coming to the region via Cuba can only redound to our benefit and we look forward therefore to seeing Cuba’s full integration into this whole system of offering tourism services,” the CTO Chairman added.
Courtesy: Jamaica Observer