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Caribbean holiday industry to remain afloat in 2012 according to expert

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation's statistical expert, Sean Smith, affirms that the Caribbean tourism industry will manage steady results in 2012. According to him, the number of tourists taking Caribbean holidays is not likely to grow much this year.

Caribbean holiday industry to remain afloat in 2012 according to expert

The Caribbean tourism industry is managing to remain afloat and resilient disregarding the turbulence in the marketplace, according to an expert. Sean Smith, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation´s statistical specialist, considers that the number of tourists taking Caribbean holidays will not grow significantly in 2012 and points out some of the obstacles the region must overcome.

“Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean region remained buoyant in 2011, continuing the recovery process which began in 2010,” said Mr. Smith “Still, there were signs that we are not yet out of the woods, the figures revealed uneven growth among the destinations and revenue continued to lag arrivals.”

The expert explained how the tourism industry behaved the past year: “Overall, the Caribbean welcomed an estimated 23.8 million tourists in 2011, 3.3 percent rise over 2010 when just over 23 million stay-over visitors came to our shores. With the exception of May and October, which were down marginally, the region recorded a rise on arrivals every month in 2011 over the corresponding month of the previous year. Tourist arrivals during the winter months (January to April) were up to 4.4 per cent over the previous winter, which had grown by 3.9 percent over 2009. The summer period ending in December recorded a lower than expected increase of 3 per cent. Among the factors contributing to this performance were low consumer and business confidence and a weak US dollar.”

 Sunbathing in Dominican Republic Beaches
Image by: *michael sweet*, on Flickr

Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the most popular destinations for travellers who take holidays in the Caribbean, continued their trend of leading growth in the region. They managed to grow by 4.2 per cent in 2011 and account for more than half of all arrivals to the region. However tourism in the Dutch Caribbean performed slightly better in comparison, recording a 4.9 per cent rise, with vigorous performances in Curacao and Aruba.

However the rest of the Caribbean community found it more difficult to recover. “Reflecting poor performances from the European markets,” Said Mr. Smith “the Caribbean Community had a much slower rate of recovery, with arrivals up by just 1.2 percent. The larger group of Commonwealth Countries made up of CARICOM plus Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman islands recorded a 2.2 per cent rise, while Martinique, the lone French Caribbean destination reporting during the period, saw arrivals go up 3.9 percent.”

 Virgin Islands
Image by: *michael sweet*, on Flickr

As usual, Canada outpaced all other source markets, with a 6.8 rise of Canadian tourists heading to Caribbean holidays in 2011. However there was just a 0.6 percent increase in general, in European visitors. Although, according to the expert, the United Kingdom was still one of the most important markets and had reported 58 percent of arrivals, this was a decline for the third straight year, mainly due to the weak economy and Air Passenger Duty tax increases.

Cruise passenger arrival was also flat with a marginal 0.3 per cent increase. Nevertheless, it is expected that the continued addition to cruise stock around the world will have a positive effect on Caribbean schedules. “However,” Smith said “high oil prices and the tendency to homeport close to densely populated catchment areas in place like the Mediterranean and other large European countries, especially in summer, will be some of the factors contributing to the dampening of Caribbean cruise business over all in 2012.”

The Yunque Forest in  Puerto Rico
Image by: jogorman, on Flickr

Sean Smith anticipates that tourists will prefer to stay home due to the economic recession or go to the Olympics in London rather than lodge in Caribbean hotels and resorts. “Higher than usual unemployment continues to prevail in the main source markets while monetary and fiscal systems remain under intense pressure,” Mr. Smith says “The US is into an election year and while some may anticipate this is a reason for US travellers to stay home, there is no hard evidence to substantiate this. The Olympic Games in England could also be a significant distraction from North South travel.”

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