(CMC) The Caribbean is predicting a slowdown in the growth of tourist arrivals for the remainder of the year as the region comes to grips with the destruction caused by three hurricanes that left a trail of death and destruction when they made their way through the Lesser Antilles last month.
Chairman of the board of directors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Joy Jibrilu, addressing a news conference on the final day of the State of the Tourist Industry Conference (SOTIC 2017), told reporters that the Caribbean had been performing at a healthy growth rate of 5.2 per cent between January and June, when compared to the same period last year.
She said that the growth during that period reflected economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers, and new marketing and product development initiatives.
“During the first six months, the region recorded 16.6 million international tourist arrivals, some 800 thousand more than in the first six months of 2016. Growth was recorded in all major source markets except South America, which contracted by 14.3 per cent,” she said.
She said that up to June, the European market had grown by 7.9 per cent; Canada by 6.4 per cent and, despite the weak Sterling currency, the United Kingdom had registered 4.8 per cent growth.
Jibrilu said that the half-year outcomes reported by STR Global showed that average hotel occupancy increased marginally by 0.2 percentage points to 70.8 per cent, while the average daily room rate rose slightly by 0.2 per cent, moving from US$220.84 in 2016 to US$221.38 in 2017.
“Like tourist arrivals, growth in the cruise sector also remained positive and stronger than the expected performance in the first half of the year. At the end of the first six months of 2017, it is estimated that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean region had reached 15.3 million, 4.0 per cent more than in the corresponding period of 2016. This performance represented the largest number of cruise passengers in the region at this time of year,” she said.
However, with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the growth rate will slow down in the remaining quarters of the year. As a result, the expected growth rate of tourist arrivals will range between one and two per cent in 2017, with the 2018 performance expected to be similar she said.
Jibrilu told reporters that while being sensitive to the impacted members of the CTO family, “we were also challenged to consider ways to tell the world that most of the Caribbean remains open for business” following the storms.
“We recognised that there is a need by consumers, the media and even travel industry professionals, of a greater understanding of the geography of the region,” she said, adding that there was general agreement that the Caribbean — both public and private sectors — must find the funds to get the message out.
During the meeting in Grenada, delegates discussed ideas on how to emerge from the hard times, bigger, stronger and more sustainable and Jibrilu said it was also an opportunity for the affected countries to share their stories and garner support.
She said the discussions will help to inform into the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Jamaica government, World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth, scheduled for November 27-29 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Jibrilu said Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, chaired a high-level meeting with the aim of developing a strategic framework for the establishment of a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) to coordinate the tourism product restoration efforts.
“It was agreed that a Global Caribbean Tourism Recovery Team (GCTRT) would be established under the chairmanship of Minister Bartlett, and would include representatives of the CHTA, CTO, the WTTC and the UNWTO,” she said, adding that a secretariat will be established, with responsibility for coordinating the technical support, capacity building, communication strategy, multilateral and bilateral agency engagement, as well as the management of public/private partnership arrangements regarding the restoration of the tourism product across the Caribbean.
The secretariat will have its first meeting later in October, when the formal strategic framework and governance structure will be developed.