The Caribbean tourism industry experienced a robust year in 2023, exceeding pre-pandemic arrival numbers by 0.8%, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). This positive trend marks a significant recovery for the region, driven by a surge in international arrivals and a revitalized hotel sector.

Dona Regis-Prosper, Secretary-General of the CTO, delivered the “Caribbean Tourism Performance Review 2023” in Bridgetown on Friday, highlighting the industry’s resilience despite variations across destinations. The Caribbean outperformed most major global regions in terms of recovery, with tourist visits reaching an estimated 32.2 million in 2023 – a four million increase compared to 2022.

Kenneth Bryan, Chairman of the CTO’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, expressed optimism regarding the industry’s ongoing recovery and growth. He highlighted the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, hosted across various Caribbean destinations, as an opportunity to further raise awareness and promote the region’s diverse offerings to a global audience.

Strong Arrival Numbers and Record-Breaking Destinations

Significantly, 11 Caribbean destinations surpassed their 2019 arrival figures. These include Anguilla, Aruba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Turks & Caicos Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. Notably, several destinations achieved record-breaking levels for annual tourist arrivals.

The United States market led the recovery, with an estimated 16.3 million stay-over arrivals, reflecting a 12.7% annual growth rate. The Canadian market also showed impressive growth, with an increase of 46.1% compared to 2022, reaching approximately three million tourist visits by year-end.

Intra-regional Travel and Hotel Sector See Upward Trends

While European arrivals remained stagnant in 2023 at around 5.2 million trips, travel within the Caribbean region itself witnessed a 3.6% increase, totalling 1.6 million trips. This represents a 62.5% recovery from pre-pandemic levels. However, Regis-Prosper acknowledged the challenge of high costs associated with fragmented air service and reduced air capacity for intra-regional travel.

The Caribbean hotel sector also experienced a remarkable turnaround, with a surge in new hotel and resort establishments. According to STR, average room occupancy across the Caribbean rose to 65.6% in 2023, compared to 61% in 2022.

Continued Growth in Cruise Tourism

The cruise tourism sector displayed exceptional growth, with preliminary data indicating an estimated 31.1 million cruise visits in 2023. This translates to a significant increase of 56.8% compared to 2019. Projections for 2024 predict a continuation of this upward trend, with an expected range of 34.2 million to 35.8 million cruise visits to the Caribbean.