Record year for Caribbean tourism


As published in the Caymanian Compass

A successful year for Cayman Islands tourism was reflected across the region with almost every island in the Caribbean seeing an increase in visitation in what officials describe as the “best ever year” for the industry.

Overall tourism arrival figures for the Caribbean were up just over 5 percent in 2014.

The Cayman Islands, which had a record year, was one of the top performers, seeing gains of just over 10 percent.

Cayman is still just outside the top 10 most visited destinations in the region, recording the 11th highest total for stay-over tourists in 2014, with some destinations yet to file complete figures. The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica dominate the market, collectively accounting for nearly half of all arrivals.  

The Cayman Islands accounted for 1.4 percent of the 26 million visitors to the Caribbean in 2014.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization, which published arrivals data for its 33 member countries last week, anticipates tourism growth to continue, forecasting a further 5 percent increase in 2015.

“Last year, we received more visitors than ever before – recording our fifth straight year of growth – and visitors spent more money in the Caribbean than they ever did before,” CTO chairman Richard Sealy said in a state of the industry report. The report indicates that tourists spent US$29.5 billion in the region last year. 

While there is rivalry for tourists between islands, the figures suggest that the success is driven, to a large extent, by general demand for “Caribbbean holidays,” particularly from the U.S.

“Increased economic activity in our region’s major source markets and the fact that several of our member countries have negotiated additional routes with the airlines to increase seat capacity during the year should lead to higher demand for Caribbean vacations,” Mr. Sealy added.  

“At the same time, hotel brands are making substantial investments, bringing new rooms to the market, indicating rising confidence in the industry.”

Data from the CTO shows that just under 50 percent of tourists coming into the Caribbean came from the U.S. Around 20 percent came from Europe and around 12 percent from Canada.  

Cayman is even more reliant on U.S. visitors than neighboring countries, with three in four visitors to the islands coming from America.

The territory saw the largest increase in visitors from Europe of any destination in the Caribbean. But Europe still only accounts for one in 10 visitors to Cayman.

The Dominican Republic is by far the most popular tourism destination in the region, attracting more than five million visitors in 2014. Cuba, with three million visitors, and Jamaica, with two million, all saw significant increases in arrivals in what the CTO said was the most successful year ever for the region. 

Aruba, with a population of just over 100,000, punches above its weight as a tourism destination.

The island saw a 10 percent increase in arrivals in 2014, clocking over a million visitors for the first time.

The Cayman Islands is amid a third tier of countries along with the Turks and Caicos and Barbados, that pull in between 300,000 and 500,000 visitors.  

  • Dominican Republic – 5.14m
  • Cuba – 3m
  • Jamaica – 2.08m
  • Puerto Rico 1.4m
  • Aruba – 1.07m
  • Bahamas – 924,000 (first six months only)
  • US Virgin Islands – 655,000 (through Nov.)
  • Haiti – 465,000
  • Barbados – 459,000 (through Nov.)
  • Trinidad and Tobago – 413,000
  • Cayman Islands – 383,000
  • St. Maarten – 377,000 (through Sept.)
  • Turks and Caicos Islands – 368,000 (through Nov.)
  • British Virgin Islands – 338,000
  • Belize – 321,000 (through Nov)

Top five Caribbean destinations for tourist growth

  • Turks and Caicos – Up 40.6 percent
  • Grenada – Up 18.4 percent
  • Montserrat – Up 13.5 percent
  • Cayman Islands – Up 10.8 percent
  • Haiti – Up 10.8 percent