Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Fri June 05 2015

Caribbean Countries Post Strong First-Quarter Tourist Arrivals

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | June 05, 2015

Caribbean Countries Post Strong First-Quarter Tourist Arrivals

PHOTO: Martinique led CTO destinations in first quarter 2015 cruise ship arrivals. (Photo by Brian Major)

Caribbean destinations began 2015 with a flourish, said Richard Sealy, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Barbados tourism minister.

Collectively CTO’s 28 member countries recorded a six percent increase in first quarter 2015 tourist arrivals versus the same period in 2014, marking 17 consecutive quarters of growth, said Sealy in an address to media Thursday at the CTO’s Caribbean Week event in New York.  

Caribbean destinations hosted eight million visits to the region, with U.S. travelers increasing by 5.6 percent during the period. Travelers from the Canada market grew by 5.4 percent during the period with Cuba and Dominican Republic among the destinations reporting increased arrivals.

Sealy said Caribbean hoteliers also enjoyed a strong first quarter, recording “historical first quarter highs” in room occupancy (77.8 percent); average daily rate ($239.84) and revenue per available room ($188.25). Regional accommodations providers also recorded a “modest” 1.3 percent increase in the number of rooms available during the first quarter.

Although “Growth is expected to be moderate and uneven among member countries,” during the remainder of 2015, “tourist arrivals are now anticipated to rise at least six percent over 2014,” said Sealy.

First quarter 2015 cruise ship calls at Caribbean destinations grew more slowly in comparison with land-based arrivals. Cruise passenger arrivals increased by 3.4 percent during the period to 8.6 million visitors, compared with a 4.3 percent increase in 2014 versus 2013.

The region’s highest-performing cruise destinations included Martinique (with cruise passengers up by 34.2 percent), Puerto Rico (26.2 percent), Antigua & Barbuda (18.6 percent) and Jamaica (15.9 percent).

Sealy further warned that Caribbean destinations’ first quarter cruise segment growth “could be reduced as cruise ships are repositioned away from the region.”

Sealy said that despite the Obama’s administration’s attempt last December to relax restrictions on travel to Cuba via executive order, he did not envision an easing of the restrictions “any time soon.”

Indeed, The Republican-controlled House of Representatives defeated a proposal Thursday to strip language from a transportation funding bill that would prevent licensing of new flights or cruises to Cuba.  

Nevertheless, Sealy said Cuba, a CTO member country, attracts millions of travelers each year, primarily from Canada and Europe. “We are not talking about a country that is new to tourism at all," Sealy said. For the time being, “Cuba will welcome new travelers on its own terms,” he said.

“Cuba is not a problem for the Caribbean Tourism Organization,” Sealy added. “If any of our members can attract people to the region, it's good for the region.”

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