Caribbean destinations reported landmark increases in overnight visitor arrivals, air transportation, and hotel performance indicators in 2019, positioning the region to achieve “continued, but slowing growth” in 2020 and “long-run growth” said Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Assn. officials and other regional tourism stakeholders at a recent gathering.
Officials at a “Caribbean Tourism Pulse” seminar during last month’s CHTA annual conference at the Bahamas’ Baha Mar resort issued arrivals, consumer demographics and hotel occupancy data they said indicate Caribbean destinations are poised to achieve multi-year growth despite concerns ranging from severe weather to global economic and political changes.
Caribbean visitor arrivals continued to outpace growth in most areas of the world, according to Dominic Fedee, CTO chairman and Saint Lucia tourism minister. CTO figures through September 2019 report a 6.1 percent regional arrivals increase, outpacing the four percent global average.
Although full-year data is not yet available, Fedee said Caribbean nations likely ended 2019 with five to six percent arrivals growth. Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao and Jamaica were among the countries to report strong 2019 overnight, land-based visitor arrivals growth.
Caribbean destinations reached significant hotel occupancy landmarks in 2019, said officials at travel research firm STR. The Caribbean achieved its highest-ever supply ever and highest full-year supply growth, said Amanda Hite, STR’s president. Caribbean revenue per available room (RevPAR) increased 2.8 percent, average daily rate (ADR) increased by 5.6 percent and room supply increased 2.8 percent in 2019, Hite said.
Caribbean supply growth began to increase in 2014 “after a period of flat/declining growth,” reaching a high of 2.7 percent growth in 2017 which collapsed to zero percent following hurricanes Irma and Maria in late 2017, Hite said. But the hurricanes in September 2017 put an end to that; 2018 full-year supply growth was zero percent. The region’s room supply increased by 2.8 percent in 2019.
Caribbean hoteliers are largely confident entering 2020, with 48 percent “positive” about 2020 according to a CHTA survey and 20 percent “extremely positive. Thirty-five percent of CHTA members expressed a “fair” outlook, and 15 percent are “negative” regarding 2020 prospects said Frank Comito, CHTA’s CEO and director-general.
Nearly 49 percent of CHTA hoteliers increased hiring last year, and capital spending was up for the ninth straight year, Comito added. “Significant improvements and upgrades continue to be made, while new hotels continue to open,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumers continue to post income and wealth gains said Adam Sacks, president of research firm Tourism Economics. Caribbean destinations should also benefit from accompanying “upwardly mobile” demographics and strong consumer confidence.
Twenty-seven million households with an annual income above $100,000 will enter 14 top Caribbean source markets by 2029 said Sacks. “This represents an equivalent of a 34 percent increase in this lucrative, high-spending market.”
Sacks predicted “continued, but slowing” Caribbean visitor growth in 2020. Furthermore, Caribbean destinations are “staged for long-run growth,” even if visitor growth is “temporarily volatile” due to economic, political and weather risks, he said.
Caribbean nations will be challenged to have “strong readiness, response and public relations and communications plans” in place, “thus making the difference in the length of time to recover” from severe weather events said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister and co-chairman of the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre.
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