Last updated: 01:05 PM ET, Thu December 31 2015

Caribbean and Latin America Report Card 2015: Which Companies Earned High Honors?

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | December 29, 2015

Caribbean and Latin America Report Card 2015: Which Companies Earned High Honors?

Some Caribbean destinations and hospitality companies performed better than others in 2015. Here’s a quick look at our grades for a handful of Caribbean hotel and resort companies and tourism marketing groups.

Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. - A

Barbados’ campaign to recapture its previous popularity with American vacationers is gaining traction, driven by expanded air links, new resorts and aggressive marketing by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI).

Travel to the southern Caribbean island is rebounding strongly this year after years of decline. Barbados recorded 432,713 overnight visitors through September, a 14.5 percent increase over 2014; arrivals from the U.S. increased by 27.9 percent during the period. Cruise ship arrivals will increase by five to seven percent through September, driven by 16 inaugural visits, said William Griffith, BTMI’s CEO.

Brazil Tourism Board (Embratur) - B

Buoyed by its successful hosting of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, Brazil tourism officials worked diligently to ensure a repeat performance in 2016, when Rio de Janiero hosts the Summer Olympic Games.

Thus the past year was dedicated to strengthening the county’s tourism infrastructure. Among other initiatives Embratur launched discussions that will likely prompt Brazil’s foreign affairs ministry to exempt visas for American tourists in the period from January to October of 2016.

“The World Cup left a great legacy with improvements in airports, urban mobility in the host cities, [and] the integration of public agencies,” said Henrique Alves, Brazil’s minister of tourism. “The Olympics’ greatest effort is focused in the city of Rio de Janeiro, with unquestionable gains for Brazilian tourism.”

Jamaica Tourist Board - A

Already the third-most visited Caribbean destination, Jamaica is headed toward another year of impressive tourism growth. The country recorded a 5.5 percent increase in visitor arrivals between January and September of 2015 said Wykeham McNeill, the country’s tourism minister. Jamaica has also hosted 105,000 more cruise ship arrivals in the first three quarters of 2015 than last year. 

As with other successful Caribbean destinations, Jamaica is riding high behind the combined of expanded air service, new hotels and resorts and targeted marketing from the Jamaica Tourist Board, working in partnership with the country’s tourism ministry.

The results include increased arrivals from the United States, said McNeill. Jamaica has also secured an additional 60,000 airline seats for the upcoming 2015-2016 winter season, which begins Dec. 15. Jamaica will also gain another $200 million worth of new hotel and resorts by the end of 2015, McNeill added.

Puerto Rico Tourism CompanyB+

The economic woes lapping at Puerto Rico’s shores have not dampened the island’s tourism industry. Visitor arrivals were up solidly in 2015, hotel development remains strong in several districts and Puerto Rico’s cruise industry is in the midst of an impressive expansion, with nine new vessels scheduled to visit the island during the 2015-2016 season.

Despite its economic struggles, Puerto Rico’s hotel occupancy has increased 6.1 percent year-to-date, said Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC). PRTC’s campaigns to promote the country, expand airline links and support hotel and cruise development have energized the island’s tourism.

“We are all aware of the fiscal situation in which Puerto Rico finds itself,” said Rivera Rocafort. “Yet the tourism sector and our visitors’ experience continue to benefit from investments and developments that enhance our island’s attraction[s].”

Sandals ResortsB+

The all-inclusive resort giant not only re-energized its Ocho Rios property to create Sandals Ochi Beach in 2015, the company also launched Sandals Barbados, viewed as a key factor in the resurging visitor arrivals in that southern Caribbean nation.

Positioned in a secluded nook of Dover Beach, Sandals Barbados provides guests with a close-up taste of the country’s beautiful natural environment. The resort is also within close proximity of local entertainment districts and attractions, and guests are encouraged to explore the island’s restaurants, nightclubs and numerous cultural and historic sites.

Palace ResortsA

Palace resorts overcame early construction delays to revamp an iconic Ocho Rios Jamaica property into the company’s first premium all-inclusive resort outside of Mexico.

The new Moon Palace Jamaica Grande brings an upscale, feature-rich resort to replace what had been long been considered a landmark, if time-worn, local property. 

Comprised of three stand-alone towers, the revamped resort features five swimming pools, a spa and dedicated wellness center, 25,000 square feet of multifunctional meeting and event space, a beauty salon, and a Flow Rider Double wave simulator.

“We are confident our first property outside of Mexico will capture the attention of new and past guests alike by coupling the appeal of Palace Resorts’ stellar offerings with Jamaica’s vibrant allure to create a truly unrivaled destination resort,” said Kathy Halpern, Palace Resorts’ vice president of sales and marketing.

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