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Caribbean destinations are seeking to manage a profound
post-outbreak visitor surge highlighted by a series of new flight options across
several countries and strong 2023-2024 passenger growth projections around the
“Our islands continue to get strong and better post-COVID,”
said Kenneth Bryan, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), at a June 8 press briefing during the group’s Caribbean Week conference in New York.
“Many islands are doing better than they were in 2019,” Bryan
said. “As you know our average daily rates are through the roof, although some
countries haven’t gone back to the [visitor] volume [posted pre-pandemic]."
Several Caribbean nations are celebrating visitor arrivals
that approach or break levels achieved in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, said the
country continues to experience significant traveler growth.
“Between January 1 and May 10, we received
1,586,303 total visitors, stopover and cruise, putting our destination on par
with 2019 record figures,” Bartlett said.
He cited “strategic investments and
resilience building” as “key areas of focus in sustaining the strong recovery
of the tourism sector.”
“The first two quarters of 2023 have been record-breaking
for most of our resorts and hotels on Nassau Paradise Island,” said Joy Jibrilu,
CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board (NPIPB).
Nassau Paradise Island’s accommodations inventory represents
for 85 percent of Bahamas hotel rooms. Generally, Nassau Paradise
Island hoteliers report, “average daily rate is holding, but occupancy is very
high,” Jibrilu said.
“If we continue at the rate that we are at now, we are
going to surpass our record-breaking year of 2019,” when the territory hosted 1.8
million land-based, overnight visitors, according to CTO data.
Barbados is also reporting improving visitor arrivals
backed by expanded air service. “When you compare our numbers with 2019, we are
at about 68 percent” of 2019 arrivals, said Ian Gooding-Edgehill, the country’s
minister of tourism.
Barbados is among the countries reporting a rise in visitor arrivals this summer. (Photo Credit: Photo via BTMI)
“We are confident we will get back to our 2019 levels and
exceed them,” Gooding-Edgehill said. The country has also added new airline capacity
dedicated U.S. routes.
“We have United Airlines flying to Barbados on a seasonal
route,” added Gooding-Edgehill. “We’ve expanded that beyond seasonality to once
“We also have
JetBlue out of New York and those have all contributed to increased numbers in
terms of arrivals."
From 144,124 visitors in pandemic-impacted 2020, Belize
rebounded to 372,614 overnight land-based visitors in 2022, said Gail Ozaeta, marketing
and communications manager at the Belize Tourism Board.
Through April of 2023, the country hosted 124,359 visitors.
Ozatea said Belize has reached about 72 percent of its 2019 arrivals, she said.
Belize is one of several Caribbean countries to announce new
air service in 2023. BTB announced on June 6 that JetBlue will launch thrice-weekly,
nonstop service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and
Belize’s Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport.
“This is a huge win for our ongoing efforts to make Belize
accessible to more U.S. visitors,” said Anthony Mahler, Belize’s minister of tourism
and diaspora relations.
Other Caribbean countries announced expanded air service highlighted
by first-ever direct flights to two destinations.
JetBlue will launch twice-weekly, direct flights from New
York to St. Kitts beginning November 2. The service provides travelers with the
first direct links to St. Kitts and sister island Nevis.
JetBlue is expanding service to the Caribbean. (Photo Credit: MichaelGordon1/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
“The introduction of this new flight option from New York
City to St. Kitts offers direct access to our island from a major U.S. travel
hub,” said Devon Liburd, CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority.
“With enhanced convenience,” Liburd said, “we anticipate
that a greater number of American tourists will have the opportunity to immerse
themselves in the paradise we proudly call home.”
Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) welcomed the June
1 launch of daily nonstop American Airlines flights between Miami International
Airport and the BVI’s Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
The first-ever direct flight to the territory eliminates
the need for travelers to connect in Puerto Rico or St. Thomas.
“As the first nonstop flight from the U.S. in decades, this
is a monumental opportunity to bring more North American travelers to the
crystal-clear waters of our beloved island-destination,” said Clive McCoy, director
of tourism, British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission.
“We are recovering from the pandemic nicely,” McCoy said. “American
Airlines sees the appetite for the destination.”
Brian Major is Managing Editor for Digital Publications & Guides/Caribbean.
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