Last week, Caribbean professionals met for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s annual Marketplace, and there was enough of good news to go around. “We’re almost back to 2019,” was the most often heard statement during press conferences and casual discussions.
That was a record year for the Caribbean in terms of stayover visitor numbers (31.5 million) and cruise arrivals (30.2 million), and it serves as the benchmark against which the area will measure 2022. Covid washed-out entries in March 2020, and strong recovery in 2021 when destinations relaxed entrance rules. However, this year’s figures will be at the forefront and will convey the tale of recovery and regeneration.
“The future remains bright,” said Nicola Madden-Greig, the CHTA’s president, at the opening ceremony held in San Juan’s Distrito-T Mobile entertainment complex.
This year, she said, “has the potential to blow past 2019 if the last quarter continues to build on the momentum from January through August.”
As per Madden-Greig, the leisure market has recovered the fastest. Business and group travel have slowed, but destination weddings are expected to be a major source of reservations in 2023.
The CHTA will add an online Caribbean Travel Advisor Expert program in 2023, “which will help inform advisors on how to sell the whole region as well as individual destinations,” according to Madden-Greig.
According to Olivier Ponti of ForwardKeys, a business that analyses industry trends and statistics, the area is in for a successful Christmas season. The pace of holiday bookings is comparable to that of 2019. He emphasized the importance of air connectivity, citing the Dominican Republic, which has daily flights from 38 worldwide gateways. The places with the best connections and planes attract the most tourists.
Since the island reopened in June 2020, Donovan White, Jamaica’s head of tourism, has recorded 3.5 million stopover arrivals until July 2022. predicted a full recovery to pre-Covid visitation counts (4.3 million) by 2023. So according to White, around 8,000 rooms will be built during the next two to five years.
After a challenging era, the tourist sector is experiencing pent-up demand for travel, according to Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. For the previous three months, Antigua and Barbuda has experienced historic levels of flight arrivals, surpassing the same time in 2018.
“We must continue to engage with new stakeholders, forge new business deals and promote everything the destination offers to businesses and visitors.”