NASSAU, Bahamas, October 5, 2018 (CMC) – Caribbean tourism experienced contrasting performances, over the last year, with the newly-elected Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, (CTO), Dominic Fedee, describing the experiences as a “a tale of two situations”.
“On the one hand, we have robust growth in countries that were not affected by last year’s hurricanes. On the other, we have seen dramatic decreases in arrivals, to those hit by the storms, although the performances of these countries are steadily improving,” Fedee said, in a statement read out at a news conference on the final day of the CTO-sponsored State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC).
But in his statement, which was delivered by CTO Secretary General, Hugh Riley, Fedee, the St. Lucia Tourism Minister, said that the region’s competitive advantages of a diverse tourism product and safety and security, are still intact.
“Destinations are rebuilding, and new tourism products and services are being restored, daily, in the destinations, impacted by last year’s hurricanes. Our research department anticipates an overall decline of between three and four percent this year, but predicts a 4.3 percent increase next year,” Fedee observed in his statement.
Fedee said cruise, on the other hand, is projected to grow by five percent to six percent this year.
He told reporters that of the 22 reporting destinations, 13 of them registered increases in tourist arrivals, during the first half of the year, ranging from 1.7 percent to 18.3 percent, while seven recorded decreases of between a negligible -0.3 percent and 71 percent.
He added, the top performing destinations, during this period, were Guyana at 18.3 percent, Belize at 17.1 percent, the Cayman Islands at 15.9 percent, Grenada at 10.7 percent and the Bahamas at 10.2 percent.
He said in the US market, for example, while Jamaica reported growth of 8.4 percent, the Dominican Republic was up by 6.3 percent and 11 other destinations achieved growth, six of which were by double digits; the Caribbean received seven million visits from the US during the first half of the year.
“This was a 15.8 percent decrease, when compared to the corresponding period last year, due mainly to a 54.6 percent fall in arrivals to Puerto Rico and decreases in arrivals to Cuba. On the other hand, there was a new record in arrivals from Canada for this time of year, with 2.4 million overnight international tourists, representing a 4.7 percent increase.”
Fedee stated that arrivals from Europe also increased, though marginally at 0.3 percent, with three million tourists visiting the Caribbean during the first half of the year.
He revealed that Belize led the way with 24.3 percent growth, followed by Guyana at 9.4 percent, Curacao 6.2 percent and St. Lucia at 4.5 percent. However, overall growth was impacted by steep falls in arrivals to Anguilla, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.
There was also a marginal decline of 0.5 percent in cruise visits, although there are signs of improvement, Fedee said.
“However, this was countered by declines of nearly 90 percent in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica was down by 88.4 percent, St. Maarten down 27.5 percent, and the US Virgin Islands decreased by 22.5 percent. Puerto Rico, though hurricane-impacted, posted a 1.1 percent increase during the period.”
Fedee, who will chair the CTO for the next two years, said he remains excited at the prospects for the CTO and the critical role it can play in unifying the Caribbean, not simply as a tourism destination, but as a people destined for greatness.
“I’m convinced that a well-supported, well-funded CTO can take its place, alongside other venerable institutions, to lift the people of the Caribbean to incredible heights that are attainable, but not yet achieved.
“The organisation’s leadership in tourism and its contribution to the development of our human resources will help drive strong economies and build reliable, competent and productive workforces and Caribbean populations that are ready to face an ever-changing global environment.”
He said the CTO’s leadership was on full display this week, through the experts brought here to share insights into how the region can better build a lasting and sustainable tourism sector that will benefit every individual, every community, every country in this region.
“We dared to challenge the region to build better, not just the infrastructure, but the entire industry. We explored applicable recommendations for the use of technology, not only to improve the visitors’ experience, but our lot, as a people. We boldly tackled controversial issues, such as commoditizing our cultures without exploiting them and embracing the Caribbean as a region of roots.
“We brought these issues to the forefront, not because they’re popular, but because we are convinced they must be successfully addressed, sooner rather than later, if we are to truly build a Caribbean tourism industry for the future,” he added.
Once elected on Wednesday, Fedee named Tiffany Howard, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, as Chairman of the CTO Board of Directors, since, according to the CTO constitution, the Board Chairman and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism must come from the same member country.
In addition to the election of the Chairman, Vice-chairs were elected to serve on the executive committee of the Board of Directors to represent various sub-groups — Curacao, representing the Dutch Caribbean; Haiti representing the French Caribbean; Bahamas and Jamaica, representing the independent Caribbean Community countries and the Cayman Islands representing the British Overseas Territories.
This committee will be completed with representatives from the private sector.