Bright outlook for regional tourism
Early projection is for tourist arrivals in the Caribbean to climb to as much as 33 million in 2023.

Welcoming over 28 million visitors in 2022, tourism in the Caribbean is expected to continue its recovery with stakeholders projecting overall arrivals to increase 10-15 per cent this year.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), in its latest performance and outlook report, said that the projection is for tourist arrivals in the Caribbean to climb to as much as 33 million in 2023. The cruise industry is also anticipated to continue its recovery as it expands to meet increasing demand and set to welcome near 33 million cruise passengers this year, based on preliminary estimates.

Visitor spend in the Caribbean last year totalled $38 billion, more than 70 per cent above 2021.

Acting secretary general of the CTO Neil Walters said that despite global pressures including high inflation, the Russia-Ukraine war among other challenges, the outlook for Caribbean travel and tourism remains optimistic.

CTO Chairman Kenneth Bryan (left) and Acting CTO Secretary General Neil Walters provide a progress report on regional tourism during a recent press conference held in Barbados.

With the Caribbean boasting one of the quickest recovery rates last year and witnessing a number of its territories already surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the expectation is for this to further improve in 2023.

"Nearly 90 per cent of the region's travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered. Caribbean destinations can therefore expect recovery to continue into 2023, albeit at a slower rate," Walters said while also predicting that growth will be uneven among the destinations, especially as additional countries and territories continue to exceed 2019 levels.

Chairman of the CTO Kenneth Bryan, who also serves as the minister of tourism and transport for the Cayman Islands, further said that the Caribbean, in the face of the devastating blows delivered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, has proven its resilience, responding well to the impacts.

"As a region, we have responded with hope, strength and the determination to prevail. Great strides have been made in Caribbean tourism, a clear indication that the sector is bouncing back, and hopes are high that the robust pace of recovery will continue into 2023 and beyond. So although we have not yet surpassed 2019's numbers across the board in every jurisdiction, the needle is certainly moving in the right direction," Bryan said.

Further touting 2023 as a year of growth and development for the CTO, Bryan said the entity was laser-focused on growing its membership and strengthening partnerships.

The CTO operates as the region's tourism development agency for its 25 members across the Dutch, English and French countries and a number of other private sector allied members. The organisation through its mandate seeks to position the Caribbean as a desirable, year round, warm weather tourist destination and ensuring that the Caribbean remains in the top five tourist destinations across the globe.

"It is my intention to also strengthen the relationships with other organisations, such as the United Nations World Travel Organization [UNWTO], the World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC] and even the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency [CATA], to foster greater collaboration," Bryan stated.

"Consideration is now being given to the restructuring of the organisation and reforming its strategic vision and direction for the next five years. This also includes the appointment of a new secretary general," he added.

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