Visitor arrivals are exceeding expectations for Caribbean destinations in 2016, buoyed by expanding air service and strong cruise-ship deployment.
Several destinations posted record totals through the first nine months of this year and Caribbean tourism officials are hoping continued success in attracting travelers will drive Caribbean tourism to one of its most successful years in recent memory.
Despite challenges ranging from insects to storms, tourist trips to the Caribbean grew 5.2 percent in the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015 said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
This year’s increase follows the 28.7 million visits Caribbean destinations posted for all of 2015, a seven percent increase over 2015 and nearly double the 4.4 percent global growth rate reported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“While this is encouraging, we must not settle,” said Riley. “We certainly cannot relax until we become the world’s most desirable year-round, warm-weather destination.”
Seemingly in accordance with Riley’s vision, several CTO countries are reporting outstanding first-half visitor increases. The British Virgin Islands this month reported a 27.3 percent year-over-year increase for the period between January and July of 2016.
Meanwhile, Belize has continued a strong year of visitor growth, recording 293,622 overnight visitors in the first nine months of 2016, a 16.4 percent increase over 2015.
In Barbados, the 320,656 overnight visitors recorded between January and June represent a 5.6 percent increase over 2015.
Even Bermuda, which throughout the decade has sought to reverse declining visitor arrivals, is enjoying a rebirth of its tourism business.
In all 20 of the 27 destinations tracked by CTO posted positive overnight visitor arrivals growth in the first half of the year and 14 of those countries posted increases of five percent or more and nine reported increases of 10 percent or more.
Expanding airline service across the region has played a key role in the region’s tourism growth.
Caribbean air connections will also expand following the recent announcement of a new unilateral codeshare agreement between JetBlue, which has emerged as a major Caribbean carrier in recent years, and Cape Air, which provides service to several Caribbean destinations. From both cities, Cape Air operates flights to two dozen destinations.
JetBlue and Cape Air customers who purchase a codeshare itinerary from either carrier will utilize tickets that include flights operated by both carriers, plus conveniences including one-stop check-in and baggage transfer.
Industry experts are hoping the numbers will continue to soar as we approach 2017.
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