Hurricanes slow travel to the Caribbean
November 23, 2017
Despite the unprecedented hurricane season that wreaked havoc on some islands, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) secretary general and chief executive officer Hugh Riley is optimistic that the affected places will rebuild and rebound stronger.
He said that while some of the reductions were influenced by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that hit Texas last August and caused almost $180 billion in damage, Hurricanes Irma and Maria were mainly responsible for the decreases.
“Understandably, the impact of the hurricanes which severely affected travel to a few of our destinations along with the widespread coverage they received and the lack of understanding of the geography of the Caribbean triggered a slowdown in travel, said Riley at a press conference in Toronto last week.
Last month, the number of flights to the Caribbean fell by 6.7 per cent while seat capacity contracted by 4.7 per cent. Prior to October, air capacity to the Caribbean grew by five per cent for the first nine months this year compared to the same period in 2016.
Riley, who served as the Toronto-based Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) senior business development manager in Canada before joining the CTO 14 years ago, said the Conference Board of Canada predicts that Caribbean airlift from Canada will be stable with capacity up by double digits to about a dozen Caribbean countries through to July 2018, with several others showing strong growth of over five per cent.
“Some 75 per cent of the Caribbean was completely unscathed by the hurricane and continue to welcome visitors,” he pointed out. “Already, virtually all of the affected countries are reporting that they are open again for business although not at full capacity with everyone one of them planning some sort of event either later this year or early next year.”
With tourism being the most important economic driver for the Caribbean, Riley said Canada was a strong performer during the first half of this year with arrivals for this market going up by 6.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.
“This was a significant rebound from an uncharacteristically feeble performance in 2015 when our tourist arrivals from this country fell by 3.4 per cent,” he said. “Thankfully, that has changed. Taking all markets into account, this year’s strong showing contributed to an overall 5.2 per cent growth in international tourist arrivals to the Caribbean during the first six months of 2017. This was ahead of the growth rate of 2.5 to 3.5 per cent which had been our CTO forecast. It has been a reflection of economic stability in the market, expansion and inauguration of flights by major carriers and new marketing and product development initiatives.”
By the end of this year, Riley anticipates that the number of Canadians visiting the Caribbean will surpass the 3.4 million mark.
In Toronto and Montreal last week for Caribbean Week Canada activities, he announced that CTO has declared 2018, the Year of Wellness and Rejuvenation in the Caribbean. The organization is encouraging member countries and private sector partners to plan and organize events around the theme that will appeal to consumers, travel agents and tour operators.
“For those of us who focus on renewing body and spirit, the options are virtually endless, from beachfront workouts and yoga retreats to wellness resorts and spa treatments,” said Riley. “The notion of being rejuvenated in the Caribbean is one more reason to let us pamper you in 2018. The region’s diverse tropical landscape with mountain ranges, valets and volcanoes, provide excellent opportunities for a variety of ages and physical abilities. Individual trekking, group hiking and doing health walks, fun runs, marathons can participate in a range of water-based health-related activities held throughout the year in our CTO member countries.”
Wellness sectors globally represent almost $3.7 trillion and more than 5% of global economic output.