BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday December 28, 2018 – As the Caribbean tourism sector prepares to welcome the New Year, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) says it’s looking forward to 2019 with a sense of optimism, excitement and much hope.
“For 2019, the outlook is bright for our destinations….We are optimistic because we are seeing signs that the lows which Mother Nature imposed upon us during the latter part of 2017 into 2018 are being reversed,” said CTO Secretary-General Hugh Riley.
“We are excited about our prospects because of the incredible turnaround that we are seeing in the most impacted destinations. And we hopeful that the progress of our member countries and supporters can continue unabated, to maintain the momentum they developed since the storms of 2017 when everyone rolled up their sleeves and got down to work to build an improved and more sustainable product.”
Riley said the CTO was also pleased to report that tourism accommodations are being rebuilt and reopened, airports are receiving their full schedule of flights with the return of airlines in full force and the diverse product offerings within our destinations are being restored.
At the same time, increases in the number of available seats, positive messaging and promotions in the marketplace have enabled the unaffected destinations to register continuous growth.
“The demand among international visitors is strong and Caribbean nationals have continued their quest to explore and enjoy the pleasures of their neighbouring destinations,” Riley said.
Regarding the cruise sector, the CTO Secretary-General said most ports have been repaired and cruise calls have already returned to normal levels.
“Indeed, regional cruise visits grew in each month since May, with the region registering growth of 13.7 per cent during the May to September period and 17.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018,” he reported.
“In October, the region launched a digital awareness campaign, ‘The Rhythm Never Stops’ on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, coinciding with augmented airlift for the 2018/19 tourist winter season. Travel professionals and their clients received the message that the Caribbean is a resilient region with an unstoppable resolve to succeed and to keep on moving in the right direction.”
Riley added that the CTO was quite excited about declaring 2019 the “Year of Festivals” in the Caribbean. The Year of Festivals will focus on the fascinating events that have become an integral part of the Caribbean tourism calendar.
At the same time, the CTO official said tourism stakeholders must also approach the New Year with a degree of caution since there’s still much work to be done.
“While preliminary data from our member countries revealed increased demand for travel to the vast majority of the 24 reporting countries, and despite a 9.1 per cent increase in arrivals in September 2018 when compared to the same month in 2017, overall our performance was still down in 2018. A third quarter decline of 3.2 per cent made this our best quarter, and the rate of tourist arrivals is now expected to slow to -1.0 per cent to -2.0 per cent – a definite sign that the tide is turning. Cruise passenger arrivals are projected to grow at an accelerated rate of around 6 per cent to 7 per cent,” he said.
Riley reminded that the region is in a stronger position than it was a year ago.
He said the evidence is clear that a strong, unified Caribbean gives the region a global advantage which individual member-countries on their own have little chance of attaining.
“The success of our countries rests upon our ability to speak as a region with one strong voice,” he said.