The Caribbean tourism sector’s performance is expected to improve in 2004, continuing an upward trend that began in 2003, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has projected. CTO, the regional organization for tourism research and the leading authority on Caribbean tourism statistics, estimated that tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by about six per cent in 2003, capping a period of gradual recovery which began in the latter part of 2003.
“The Caribbean tourism industry was generally on the upswing in 2003. This trend is likely to continue in 2004 producing growth perhaps in the four to five percent range,” Arley Sobers, CTO’s director of research and information management told journalists at a news conference in Barbados today.
Mr. Sobers said that a weak US dollar; safety and security issues; the improving performance of the US, Canadian and European economies and the English cricket tour of the Caribbean are some of the factors that will impact on the region’s performance this year.
However, he said that tourism destinations that compete with the Caribbean have implemented impressive programmes as they attempt to recover the business that they lost as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, the war in Iraq and SARS.
“The region, therefore, cannot afford to be complacent,” the CTO official warned.
Improvements in arrivals to the Caribbean in 2003 came from all the major markets, with arrivals from the United States up four per cent, Canada increasing 15 per cent and Europe growing by nine percent.
“Performances among our destinations varied, although most destinations recorded reasonable levels of growth in their tourist arrivals in 2003,” Mr. Sobers said at the news conference, which addressed the Caribbean’s tourism performance in 2003 and projections for 2004, along with the sixth annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development scheduled to be held in Havana, Cuba from April 27 - 30, 2004.
He added that cruise passenger visitations were up by ten per cent in 2003, in line with the increased capacity allocated to the Caribbean.
However, he said, as has been the tendency since 9/11, the fastest growing cruise destinations have been those closest to the United States.