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Despite hurricanes, the Caribbean had a record tourism year

The Caribbean experienced two devastating hurricanes in 2017, and some islands in the region are still struggling to recover. In spite of the destruction caused by the storms, however, the region reported a record year for tourism. The region welcomed some 30 million visitors in 2017, a three percent increase over 2016.

Despite hurricanes, the Caribbean had a record tourism year

The past year was not the best for the Caribbean. The region experienced two devastating hurricanes, but tourism to the region apparently did not suffer. The Caribbean welcomed a record 30 million visitors in 2017.

The islands saw $37 billion in total visitor spending in 2017, up three per cent from 2016, according to the report from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

“In short, despite the challenges in 2017, more visitors arrived in the Caribbean and they spent more.”

Said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO, according to Travel Agent Central.

“Is that enough? Is our work now done? Not by a long way. The Caribbean, with our highly completive tourism products, has quite some distance to go.”

Not all Caribbean islands experienced the same increase, however. The numbers varied significantly across the region. St. Lucia saw a double-digit increase in visitors, while other islands’ arrivals were down by 20 per cent.

Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma devastated the region in the fall of 2017, leaving dozens dead and destroying buildings and infrastructure across the islands.

The economic recovery has varied greatly island to island, with geography and the path of the two storms serving as a strong determining factor. The Bahamas, for instance, survived largely unscathed and was welcoming visitors back to its shores within weeks of the hurricanes. Puerto Rico saw some of the worst destruction, and as of this writing, nearly half a million people there are still without power.

Many industry experts throughout the Caribbean have called for visitors to return to the region, citing the importance of the tourist dollar in rebuilding.

Ramon Andrews, Director of the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, said in October.

“One of the best things you can do is to come to this destination. It’s definitely going to help with the rebuilding efforts.”

Tourism is a significant industry throughout the region, directly supporting almost 700,000 jobs and indirectly supporting another 2.1 million. Tourism officials on the islands are encouraging foreign visitors to continue to visit the islands, noting that tourist dollars will help spur post-hurricane recovery.

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