Caribbean tourism “barely keeping its head above water”

Fernella Wedderburn

NEW YORK, United, Wednesday June 5, 2013 – A senior official of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Tuesday warned that the Caribbean “is barely keeping its head above water” amid predictions that the sector will record a slight increase in tourist arrivals in 2013. 

CTO Director of Research and Information Technology, Winfield Griffith, told a workshop that forms part of the Caribbean Week activities here, that the figures show the region did not outperform areas such as Asia and the Pacific last year.

He said overall, worldwide, there had been a 3.8 per cent increase in visitor arrivals in 2012 and that “Asia and the Pacific, they were ahead of Africa slightly and the Caribbean followed in third position”.

He said five years ago, the Middle East, which was a major competitor to the Caribbean and other destinations “had fallen back due to what is happening in those areas.

‘We know that these areas are quite politically unstable and it reflects in their numbers,” he said.

But Griffith told the workshop attended by representatives from the National Trust Offices (NTO’s), the Caribbean was losing its “a bit of market share” with regards to stay over arrivals even when the figures were showing an increase globally.

He said French Caribbean islands recorded a decline between 2011-12, while the United States and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean were recording significant increases.

He said Cuba and the Dominican Republic continue to be front runners and that they were continuing to “do so even though they are not showing the numbers at the beginning of the year”.

But the director of tourism for the Americas in Martinique, Muriel Wiltord-Latamie told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that a turnaround is on the horizon.

“In Latin America and South America the numbers are improving, we a quite satisfied with the numbers for the USA, we have (seen) a notable increase and we were able to put more transportation between Miami and Martinique.

“From Canada we have also improved airlift to the island. We had an increase for 2012 of 14 per cent which is a good number for us but we don’t have any numbers for 2013 as yet. We are doing good, we have to a lot to improve of course we want to make progress, we had a significant year in terms 

of airlift,” she added.

Griffith said that for the first quarter of this year, “the region did not do every well” with arrivals actually declining by 0.5 per cent for the entire Caribbean.

“When you look at the CARICOM region it declined by 3.4 percent so it was not a bright start for the Caribbean this year.”

In addition to the poor start, the Caribbean has had to deal with Britain’s Air Passenger Duty (APD that regional governments say make the region much more expensive to visit. 

“The United Kingdom visitors are taking shorter trips, the length of stay is not as long as it used to be, so that has compounded the issue in addition to the APD. So overall we are taking about a situation where stay over arrivals are under severe pressure from out of Europe (and) it is counter balance from some improvements from the US market.”

Regarding the cruise industry, Griffith said “there has not been a lot of increase activity in cruise either.

“Cruise has been rather stagnant in the last few years. Between 2009 and 2010 it showed some increase which we were hoping would be sustained but thereafter it has not moved much, the growth has been very flat.

“The activity continues to trough between may and September and you would be aware in some countries not even a single cruise arrival is experience during the summer months. It continues to peak more in the months of April and then it declines and then starts again in October. In the first quarter, there was zero increase over last year,” Griffith added.(CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)