CTO upbeat about 2023 Caribbean tourism outlook

17th March 2023

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) is voicing optimism on the region’s tourism prospects for the remainder of 2023.

Speaking in Barbados during the organisation’s launch of the 2022 “Tourism Performance and Outlook Report,” Acting Secretary General of the CTO, Neil Walters declared that the Caribbean had one of the quickest recovery rates globally.

Some 28.3mn tourists visited the region in 2022, representing 88.6% of pre-pandemic 2019 visitor arrivals. This performance was buoyed by a 28.1% increase in US tourists, reaching 14.6mn compared to the 11.4mn from that market in 2021.

The CTO noted that while travel restrictions imposed by Canada in early 2022 saw a slower 60% recovery, and major declines in intra-regional connectivity impacted the numbers, “arrivals from the European market increased by 81% in 2022 when compared to 2021”. The 5.2mn tourists from this market were almost double the 2.8mn in 2021 accounting for 18.3% of all arrivals in 2022.

The organisation attributed the improvement to shorter travel restrictions, pent-up demand, and surplus savings accrued during the pandemic, as well as “strategic marketing initiatives and the restoration of some of the airlift capacity between more markets and the Caribbean”.

“Nearly 90% of the region’s travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered,” said Walters, adding that destinations such as Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos, and the US Virgin Islands had already surpassed their pre-pandemic performance. All 27 Caribbean destinations showed an increase in annual stayover arrivals of between 8.3% and 16%.

Revenue in the sector was also up in 2022. Global data company STR reported that the average daily rate at hotels increased by 21.7% to US$290.60 in 2022 on the strength of an uptick in revenue per available room by 66.4% to US$176.46.  The number of available rooms also increased by 4.4% while room income jumped by 73.6%.

All told, data estimates that visitors to the Caribbean region spent between US$36.5bn and $37.5bn in 2022, a significant increase of 70% to 75% when compared to 2021. “As a region, we have responded with hope, strength and the determination to prevail,” said CTO Council of Ministers and Commissioners Chairman and Cayman Islands’ Minister of Tourism and Transport, Kenneth Bryan.

“So, although we have not yet surpassed 2019’s numbers across the board in every jurisdiction, the needle is certainly moving in the right direction,” said Bryan as he voiced optimism about 2023.

The CTO expects that this year, the region will record a 10% to 15% bump in arrivals over its record performance in 2019, when the region welcomed 32mn land-based visitors. “This means that between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists can be expected to visit the region this year,” said Acting Secretary General Walters.

Prospects for cruise tourism are also on the mend. “All berths in the region have reopened and are expanding. As more ships are deployed to the region, the capacity for cruises will rise and demand will stay high,” predicted Walters. He revealed that estimates put cruise tourists visiting the Caribbean in 2023 at between 32mn and 33mn, an overall increase of 5% to 10% over the pre-COVID-19 baseline.

To ensure continued recovery, the CTO said that it is focused on growing its membership, including countries, territories as well as allied partners.

“It is also my intention to strengthen the relationships with other organizations, such as the United Nations World Travel Organization, the World Travel and Tourism Council, and even the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), to foster greater collaboration,” said Chairman Bryan, announcing the return of CTO’s Caribbean Week in New York from 5 to 8 June this year.

Bryan confirmed that consideration is being given to the restructuring of the organisation and reforming its strategic vision and direction for the next five years, which includes the appointment of a new Secretary General and addressing the vexing issue of regional air connectivity.

“It would be illogical for me to promise a solution to this issue during my tenure as chairman. But what I can and will commit to is getting the players around the table to forensically examine what we need to do as a unified region to improve this scenario and start the ball rolling towards the solution,” promised the CTO Chairman.

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.