The Caribbean has seen its “largest ever” number of future bookings as visitor numbers surpass 2019 levels.
Colin Pegler, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said the destination is bouncing back from the pandemic, as visitors return to the islands in droves.
In a recent interview at the CTO’s Caribbean Showcase in London, Pegler said: “While the pandemic did, of course, cause some financial hardship for some, there are many who didn’t and they have cash in their pockets that they want to spend on holidays.
“On top of that, there are still people out there that still haven’t had their big holiday since the pandemic started and having been saving up for it.
“We have seen massive demand for multi-generational holidays alongside a surge in bookings from groups of friends, which has put Caribbean visitor numbers at around 10% higher than they were in 2019.
“Additionally, we operators that have already put out rates for holidays through to the end of 2024 and some even into 2025, which would never normally happen this early.
“I have seen bookings for Christmas 2024 and it won’t be long until 2025 bookings start rolling in, which is by far the furthest into the future we have had booked before.”
However, Pegler warned the rising cost of living could have a “significant” impact on sales.
“The cost-of-living crisis is the biggest single concern we as a business have in the immediate future,” he said.
“The government’s announcement of a cap for businesses and consumers is hugely reassuring, provided it works, and we are continuing to see massive demand so we are hoping the impact will be fairly minimal, but it is definitely a cause for concern.”
He also explained some Caribbean islands are not bouncing back as quickly as others due to a “more cautious” lifting of Covid entry restrictions.
“Destinations like Antigua, the Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia never really closed down during the pandemic and were really forward thinking when travel started up again so, as a result, their visitor numbers have soared in recent months.
“Other islands such as Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and even Barbados were much more cautious in lifting their restrictions which meant they missed out on the peak tourism months at the beginning of the year and are still way down on visitor numbers compared to 2019.
“So although as a whole the Caribbean is seeing a greater number of visitors than in 2019, that isn’t spread equally across the islands.”
Meanwhile, more than 250 UK travel trade partners and specialists took part in a week-long series of events around the country run by the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority last week as all Covid protocols were removed.