Caribbean travel grows despite impact of hurricanes

The Caribbean’s tourism numbers continue to increase even as the impact of recent major hurricanes still plays out in a number of the major destinations.

According to travel analytics firm ForwardKeys, bookings for the region are up 1.6 per cent for the period November 1 to January 31 winter season when compared to the same period last year. The data was shared at the World Travel Market in London, England on Wednesday.

The reported growth is in spite of decreases from the United States of America (USA), the largest market, which is down three per cent from its bookings last year. The shortfall is negated increases from other major markets including France, the United Kingdom and Canada which are 9.8 per cent, 0.9 per cent and 8.2 per cent ahead respectively.

Generally, the region’s growth for the past three quarters is up 5.2 per cent over the same period last year. The USA leads all markets and accounts for 56 per cent share of all arrivals to the Caribbean, with performance that is up nine per cent year-to-date. Canada’s overall contribution is also up 15.3 per cent over the corresponding period in 2018.

The study, the results of which were shared by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), noted that the impact of hurricanes over the past two years continues to affect the performance of some islands, particularly Puerto Rico which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in September. (Photo: REUTERS/Dante Carrer)

“So far, it has taken Puerto Rico 15 months to reach 70% of pre-hurricane arrivals and it has taken St Maarten 20 months,” CTO said. “In the case of the Bahamas (which was affected by Hurricane Dorian in early September), ForwardKeys expects the recovery to take less time because the initial rebound in both post-hurricane arrivals has been stronger: just one month after the hurricane, the Bahamas has reached 80% of pre-hurricane arrivals.”

The recovery numbers of the Bahamas were helped by the fact that most of the hurricane’s impact was focused on two of the country’s 700 islands, Grand Bahama Island and The Abacos.

Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, said “Because of our unique geography, a hurricane can impact some parts of the country, but leave other parts untouched. That is the case with Hurricane Dorian. The majority of our country remains beautiful and palm-fringed, with unspoiled beaches in several shades of white and pink. We would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”