CTO Mildly Optimistic about Caribbean Tourism in 2003


The Caribbean Tourism Organization is cautiously optimistic about the outlook for the industryå‘s performance in 2003. Secretary-General, Jean Holder, says the region expects modest increases in the winter season, based on reports reaching the CTO so far. 
While prospects for the Caribbean in the US market continue to be good, there is still some concern over the recovery of the long haul market. Since September 11, Europeans are staying closer to home so travel within Europe is up. This has affected Caribbean business out of Europe significantly. While some recovery in the long haul market is expected for winter 2003, of note is that some of the UK business (23% of the overall European market) is likely to be diverted to South Africa due to the World Cup.
The uncertainty surrounding developments in the Middle East is also cause for concern. A war there would not only increase the atmosphere of uncertainty for all travellers, but would raise the price of oil (now US$33.00 a barrel) and an airline fuel bill (now
US $40 billion) to even higher levels. This would push a number of already struggling airlines over the edge.

The CTO
expects that given no war in 2003, Caribbean tourism will reach 2000 levels this year and resume real growth in 2004.


2002 Caribbean Tourism Performance


Most of the positive
growth for the region took place in the US and UK
markets during the last quarter of 2002 and this has carried over to 2003.

Preliminary estimates from reporting destinations (20 of 31 CTO member countries) indicate that up to October 2002, arrivals were down by approximately 6%. This was due to a difficult winter 2002 season when the region was down approximately 10%. Each successive month after May 2002 registered significant improvements with both the US and UK market rebounding in the summer months.
The Caribbean’s proximity to the US market and its reputation for peace and tranquillity in a world of uncertainty and instability, were definite assets. All this was reinforced by increased government support and creative marketing efforts, which included increased expenditure at both the national and regional levels.
For a number of reasons many more air seats also became available and at competitive prices. On the other hand, the tendency of consumers to travel nearer to home, gave great momentum to interregional travel, which meant for example that many Europeans and Asians
travelled to each others’ countries or within their own countries, instead of travelling the Atlantic. Middle Eastern travel to the United States, for example, has been noticeably reduced.

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Europe, which had begun to perform poorly in 2000 due to weak economies and weak currencies, was even more severely impacted by the terrorist events of 9/11/2001 which struck a blow at long haul travel. There were other contributors, including the fact that Europe is very much a tour operator/charter driven market and while many of the schedule services were maintained, the region lost much of the charter traffic which always constitutes a major share of European business.

2002 International Tourism Performance

Initial reports from the World Tourism Organization
(WTO) indicate that contrary to many of the gloomy predictions, international tourist arrivals in 2002 not only grew by more than 22 million over 2001, which was a very difficult year,  but by 19 million over 2000. It should be noted that 2000 was a bumper year in which many extravagant world events like the Olympics and the World Cup had pushed travel up over 1999 by some 7 per cent.

The 2002 results, which saw international arrivals break the 700 million mark for the first time ever, once more underscore the resilience of the tourism sector, even in the most difficult global environment of political and economic uncertainty.
The World Tourism Organization Report however estimates that the Americas was the only region in the world to close 2002 in the red, with the Caribbean being down at the end of 2002 by 3 per cent or more.

Secretary General of CTO, Jean Holder, states however that Caribbean tourism business declined by some 16 per cent during the last quarter of 2001 as a direct result of the terrorist events of 9/11/2001 and after a very difficult start in the first half of 2002, being 3 to 4 per cent down by the end of the year must be seen as a major recovery.
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