Bridgetown, Barbados (22 Dec 2016) – This has been an impressive, yet challenging year for Caribbean tourism. We have seen a rise in tourist arrivals when compared to our record year in 2015, fueled by strong performances in Europe – mainly the United Kingdom and Germany – and from the United States, and we are poised to meet the 30 million arrivals target set two years ago at our State of the Tourism Industry Conference in the United States Virgin Islands.
We will present a more detailed picture at our annual Caribbean Tourism Industry Performance news conference on 9 February, 2017.
Yet, amidst the year’s impressive achievements, the Canadian market was a concern. Traditionally a robust achiever, even during the tough global economic meltdown, Canada delivered declining numbers this year, sparked by the weakening of the Canadian dollar. We are moving to reverse that slide, combining our efforts with those of our CTO member-countries and our industry partners. In the first quarter of 2017 we will hire a business development representative to substantially enhance the Caribbean’s engagement in Canada’s most productive areas, identify and develop business in non-traditional areas and work closely with our members’ representatives for maximum impact. New travel agent training and certification, increased use of targeted social media, enhanced deployment of the CTO’s data analysis tools, and more focused engagement with the Caribbean Diaspora are all components of the 2017 strategy for Canada.
Our hotel partners, too, faced their own challenges from major markets. While air arrival numbers were up, the key performance metrics for the hotel industry recorded declines through the first half of 2016, based on data compiled by Smith Travel Research Inc. The slumps were influenced by a rise in room stock and a fall in demand for traditional hotel rooms, attributed in part to ‘the sharing economy’.
Mother Nature challenged us as well, with some of our member-countries affected in varying degrees by hurricanes. Yet, despite the adversities occasioned by these events, our resilience and fortitude as a region stood out and even the worst affected were back open for business in quick time, proving that tourism is an effective way to re-energise an economy following a natural or other disaster.
The onset of the Zika virus also presented a challenge and the CTO continues to work with our partners, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Public Health Agency to address concerns raised by our suppliers and potential visitors.
We also continue to monitor the possible impact of the Brexit vote as the UK moves to end and its membership in the European Union. Developments in the United States too are occupying our focused attention, the US market being the primary supplier of visitors to the Caribbean.
Our declaration of 2016 as The Year of Romance in the Caribbean turned out to be a success story, with member-countries and industry partners organizing events or participating in roadshows specializing in romance. Ideas blossomed, reinforcing the Caribbean’s reputation for being the place most likely to celebrate, ignite or rekindle romance.
Our 30 Days of Caribbean Romance social media marathon reached 10.5 million people in June, while millions more were reached through the innovative Periscope Marathon & Tweet Chat featuring romantic places of the Caribbean, and our Five Romantic Facts about each member-country during Caribbean Tourism Month in November.
The Year of Romance ended with the Ultimate Jamaican Dream Wedding organized in collaboration with one of our leading romance partners, MarryCaribbean.com.
As was expected, the success of The Year of Romance has created a heightened anticipation about our theme for the coming year!
We are now delighted to announce that 2017 will be the Year of Adventure in the Caribbean.
Adventure links directly with the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development declared by the United Nations and allows us to twin adventure with sustainability.
Adventure and Caribbean travel go perfectly together, whether through energetic activity such as zip lining high above a valley or speeding around a racing circuit, or more serenely rafting down a river and hiking through a country’s interior. For some travellers, an adventure is simply exploring local communities to learn their language and customs, and teasing the senses with new cultural and culinary experiences.
For the Year of Adventure we encourage our members and partners, both within and outside the Caribbean, to organise events and activities and share them with us. The spirit of adventure lives in all of us and in every member-country of the CTO.
On behalf of our Chairman The Hon. Obie Wilchcombe, the Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, the Board of Directors, the diverse membership and Staff of the CTO, I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas, Happy Holidays and a safe, peaceful and prosperous New Year.