Tourism to the Caribbean saw its fifth year of growth in 2014 with a record number of visitors and spend.
A new report from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) found there was a record 26.3 million tourists to the islands in 2014, up 1.3m on 2013.
UK numbers were up 12%, helped by increased air routes to the region and more confidence in the economy. Overall European numbers to the region were up 4.6% to 5m, the first time numbers from the region surpassed the mark in six years.
The growth is faster than the region had anticipated, and also came along with record spend of US$29.5 billion, up 5%.
“There was strong demand throughout 2014 and I am particularly pleased with our performance during the summer period when we our growth rate was almost twice that of the summer of 2013,” said Hon. Richard Sealy, chairman of CTO. “All of this was achieved in a year which recorded moderate growth in the world economy [showing] an indication that Caribbean holidays are still in demand and all of this a sign that, despite the moderate growth, stability is returning to the markets and consumer confidence is growing.”
Cruise arrivals were up 8% to 23.9 million year-on-year, while hotel occupancies were relatively the same albeit with 4.3% higher rates.
The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Aruba set their own tourism records in the year (making up 45% of arrivals), while Saint Lucia, Belize and Haiti also posted record overnight levels.
“Leisure travel is showing steady demand again as the economies in the main markets continue signs of resurgence, although these signs vary from weak to moderate at best. This heightened demand significantly benefitted the Caribbean and is clearly evident in the fact that visitors are coming in larger numbers such that growth rates in arrivals (stay-over and cruise) were higher than expected last year,” said Winfield Griffith, director of research and IT at CTO.
Riley called for continued group development to help tourism grow further in 2015, with an expectation numbers will grow between 4-5% this year.
“We must invest in a coordinated strategy to promote the Caribbean,” he said. “At the same time…if we are to withstand the strong competition from both emerging destinations and our own source markets, we must make the right investments in our infrastructure, we must make travel to and through the Caribbean as hassle-free as possible and we must make tourism profitable for our people and for our partners.”