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A JetBlue aeroplane lands at Princess Juliana International Airport near Maho Beach in St Maarten.

CTO cautiously optimistic about summer travel in the region amid upticks

A JetBlue aeroplane lands at Princess Juliana International Airport near Maho Beach in St Maarten.

As new variants of the novel coronavirus pandemic emerge, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has expressed guarded optimism about the prospects for travel to the region even as tourist arrival expects an uptick this summer.

The entity said that while it has seen where regional markets were recovering much quicker than previously projected and are ripe for penetration this season stemming from high levels of pent-up demand, rising cases of the novel coronavirus in key source markets continue to threaten full recovery.

The CTO, in commending member countries for their continued efforts to contain the spread of the virus and the reopening of their economies, also urged each, in light of the expected uptick in tourism activities during the summer season, to be even more vigilant as new strains arise.

“It is recognised that any optimism must be tempered by the fact that new COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in both the UK and the US, two of the Caribbean’s major source markets. These are signs that the virus remains a major threat which can quickly reverse any progress we have made. Based on these indicators, the CTO is guardedly optimistic about the prospects for summer travel, and for the rest of the year into 2022,” it stated in a recent news release, noting that while tourist arrival to the region continues to be encouraging, caution must be exercised.

Christine Valls, vice-president of sales for the Caribbean at American Airlines: “The Caribbean has been booming for American Airlines, with an average 60 per cent load factor by late May 2021.” (Photo: The Business Journals

Commenting on data collected from twelve destinations, the CTO said that tourist arrivals up to April of this year registered growth, when compared to April last year when tourism activity was curtailed globally. The entity, however, said that while tourist arrivals trended upwards in several destinations, the number of stay-over visitors were still below corresponding levels in 2019.

Citing reports from key aviation players, the organisation shared data from two major carriers — British Airways and American Airlines— which confirmed high interest for travels to the region.

A British Airways aircraft taxis past other parked British Airways aircraft at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in west London, on July 30, 2010. (Photo: AFP/ Ben Stansall/Getty Images)

According to Christine Valls, vice-president of sales for the Caribbean at American Airlines in the CTO statement, an increase demand for flights to the region has increased the number of trips to be made by the airline especially when compared to that of last summer.

“The Caribbean has been booming for American Airlines, with an average 60 per cent load factor by late May 2021,” Valls stated, adding that since this week, five new routes have been added to the Caribbean with another to come November and increasing to 35, the number of destinations served by the airline.