By Frank Martin
Good news about tourism in the Caribbean at the beginning of 2019 has dispelled many of the concerns in the region after the terrible impact of the consecutive intense hurricanes in 2017.
According to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data resurgent islands are additionally poised to achieve continued growth as the Caribbean embarks on the winter season, traditionally the region’s busiest calendar period.
That is the case of Cayman Islands and Grenada that became the first Caribbean countries to post detailed 2018 visitor arrival figures, with both nations reporting double-digit visitor growth.
Tourism authorities in the British Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia also recently issued data indicating increased 2018 arrivals.
These Caribbean destinations are reporting increased strong visitor arrivals for 2018, surmounting significant hurdles created by September 2017’s crippling hurricanes.
Local experts said that travelers are returning to Caribbean destinations. One result is that very important companies as American Airlines and Jet Blue Airways announced expanded Caribbean service in late 2018.
Around 20 percent of the 34 Caribbean destinations that suffered significant damage from the 2017 storms as Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Saint Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands most heavily impacted experienced visitor declines after the hurricanes.
Statistics indicate Cayman Islands hosted 410,984 overnight, land-based visitors in the first 11 months of 2018.
Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT) officials reported the total represents an 11.26 percent increase over the 418,403 visitors hosted in the same period in 2017. The figure is also the most overnight visitors in Cayman Islands history.
Cuba, a big tourist’s destination in the area affected by the 2017 hurricanes was flooded by a record of 4.75 million visitors in 2018 as tourism spikes by 60% in four years with cruise ship boom.
Last year the number of ships docking at Cuba’s Havana port has grown by 48 per cent.
Canada remains Cuba’s top tourist market, with 1.1 million Canadians visiting
Overall tourism arrivals are expected to rise seven per cent next year to 5.1 million.
Cuba’s tourism took a hit in late 2017 from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma and tighter U.S. travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.
Grenada, the southern Caribbean island known as the “Spice of the Caribbean” was a hot travel destination in 2018 as the country’s combined cruise, yacht and overnight, land-based arrivals totaled 528,077 visitors, a 12.9 percent increase over 2017.
Canada recorded the highest growth in 2018 with a 19.1 percent increase, followed by the United States with 12.38 percent; the U.S. remained Grenada’s number one arrivals source, with 46.9 percent of visitors in 2018, followed by the United Kingdom.