The Caribbean welcomed a record 8.7 million long-stay international tourist arrivals for the first quarter of this year.
This represents an increase of 150,000 or 1.8 per cent increase for the same period in 2016.
However, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley said the hotel industry continued to be challenged with a drop in room revenue.
Speaking at a media conference at Caribbean Week in New York on Thursday, Riley said the “other Caribbean” market, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname, led growth across the sub-region for the period under review with arrivals up 6.3 per cent as at the end of March.
“Of the remaining sub-regions, the French Caribbean was the only one to record an increase in international trips. Within the other groupings visitor arrivals fell by 1.3 per cent.
“After uncharacteristically weak performance in 2016, the Canadian market has rebounded in 2017 to post the highest growth rate of 4.8 per cent in the first quarter,” said Riley.
“Europe was up 2.9 per cent and the United States was up 1.3 per cent. However, data compiled by STR Global Limited for the first quarter indicated that the hotel industry continued to struggle. While the number of available rooms increased by 1.1 per cent room revenue, average daily rates and revenue per available room all fell,” he said, without saying by how much.
Riley said cruise passenger arrivals for the first three months of this year increased by an estimated 4.5 per cent to reach ten million, compared to last year.
The tourism official also pointed out that the CTO had embarked on a five-year plan to grow the organization and better assist members, adding that CTO was also looking at the possibility of expanding its membership to countries “outside the traditional Caribbean region but washed by the Caribbean sea and seek membership in the organization”.
“The Council of Ministers and commissioners endorsed a joint CTO/CHTA collaboration to put together for the consideration of Caribbean Community heads of government, a framework for the development of a Caribbean public/private sector tourism marketing and development initiative,” he added.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Barbados TODAY Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) William Griffith said he was pleased with the progress being made in the Barbados market to grow the tourism sector.
He said overall numbers were trending upward for the first four months, with air arrivals increasing by just over eight per cent.
“The trend continues to be positive. It is positive because we have increased airlift out of the UK this summer, increased airlift out of Canada . . . . The airlift out of the United States is flat this year, with a small reduction in Jetblue and Delta. The Caribbean continues to do well. We have had a new service out of Martinique for example,” said Griffith, adding that the forecast for the remainder of the year was one of cautious optimism.
“So when we look at the overall net gain as well as when we look at the positive trend in terms of the accommodation on the island, with a new Sandals to open in November and the Sea Breeze hotel under major renovation to be opened with 44 more rooms, it is really a good time for us,” he said.
Griffith said the positive trend was further bolstered by the range of events to be held in Barbados for the rest of the year including Grand Kadooment and CARIFESTA in August, the year of sports events, Run Barbados and the Food and Rum Festival.
Griffith said he remained confident about the business coming out of the US despite current uncertainty associated with the Trump administration policies, adding that the US market remained the strongest growth market, having increased about 20 per cent year to date.