Comment: The Caribbean has careered back in 2018

Comment: The Caribbean has careered back in 2018

Region has largely recovered from last year’s two hurricanes, says Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association chief Frank Comito

Most of the Caribbean is doing remarkably well this year, not least because more than 75% of the region was untouched by last autumn’s two hurricanes.

In terms of visitor arrivals and hotel performance, our year-to-June figures compare favourably with the same period in 2017. What makes this even more encouraging is the fact that six of the Caribbean’s 32 destinations are still recovering from last year’s unprecedented twin hurricanes. Region-wide, with all first-quarter 2018 arrivals data in, UK arrivals were up by 0.2% year on year.

Mixed fortunes

By destination, it’s been a mixed bag. UK arrivals to Jamaica and Antigua were down -1.4% and -4.6% respectively in the first half of the year, while Barbados and the Dominican Republic were up 3.7% and 2.1% respectively. Saint Lucia and Belize have seen robust 10.5% and 20.6% UK arrival increases respectively. The six hurricane-impacted destinations are down by 30%-50% in UK arrivals.

During the first quarter, a good chunk of room inventory on the worst‑affected islands was not available. As the year has progressed we have seen more room inventory come on stream and by the end of the year and into 2019 we expect most room inventory in the impacted destinations to be back on stream with a fresher, refurbished product.

As of June, the reported proportion of rooms open in the impacted destinations was 65% in Anguilla, 40% in the British Virgin Islands, 50% in Dominica, 80% in Puerto Rico, 40% in St Maarten and 45% in the US Virgin Islands.

In the US Virgin Islands, for example, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort are expected to reopen at the end of 2019 with major upgrades, while Morning Star will likely be “upbranded” to attract a more upscale traveller. In Anguilla, the popular upscale resort of Belmond Cap Juluca, which was scheduled for a renovation and expansion before last September’s storms, is scheduled to reopen on November 17 with fresh rooms, guest areas and new restaurants.

Industry support

We continue to be grateful for the outpouring of support from the industry to assist with recovery efforts. With our partner the international non-profit organisation Tourism Cares, our joint Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund has raised more than $275,000 in charitable donations to build long-term recovery and enhance the ability of hurricane-impacted destinations to rebound as quickly as possible.

Donors’ generosity has facilitated assistance to Caribbean nationals for training and education, restored destination capacity and tourism-related infrastructure, and boosted job creation, hotel training and more.

The best thing our loyal travel partners can do is to sell the entire Caribbean. We are open for business. Our airlift continues to grow, with more flights than ever. And we’ve seen four straight years of significant investments in hotels and expanded airport facilities.

The Caribbean is back and better than ever, with many deals to take advantage of this autumn and winter.

MoreCaribbean visitor numbers increase after 2017 hurricanes

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