Caribbean arrivals up, visitor spend trending positively!
Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
Visitor arrivals to the Caribbean is up in the first quarter of 2014 and so is visitor spend, said the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
Figures released by the CTO at Caribbean Week in Toronto, Canada on June 25, show a 2.2 per cent increase in stopover arrivals between January and March 2014, with cruise visits to the region up by 2.3 per cent.
According to CTO chairman, Beverley Nicholson-Doty, the Caribbean tourism sector has recorded improvements when compared to the corresponding period in 2013.
Visitor spend was also trending upwards, she announced, noting the increased arrivals and improved average visitor spending in the accommodation sub-sector so far. A rise of around four per cent in total spend region-wide is predicted this year.
"The accommodation sector also performed better during the first quarter than it did the same period last year, with average daily rates and room revenues recording growth," she told the media, adding that this was an extremely good indicator for the region in terms of people spending both on their way to the various destinations, and also while at the destinations.
Regarding Canada's performance, Nicholson-Doty announced that arrivals from this market were up 3.3 per cent in the first quarter, with 1.3 million Canadians coming to the Caribbean.
The United States, with just under 3.5 million visitors, continues to be the largest provider of tourists to the Caribbean. However, the Canadian market grew at a faster pace during the first quarter. The European market also improved, with 1.5 million visitors coming to the region between January and March 2014.
Following her comments, Jamaica's minister of tourism and entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill, also had good news about the buoyancy Jamaica was experiencing in the first six months of 2014.
REASON TO BOAST
"Stopover arrivals are near the one-million mark, a 2.2 per cent increase over the same period last year," he boasted during a welcome luncheon for America's largest domestic carrier, Southwest Airlines.
In 2013, the country made history when it welcomed two million stopover visitors, a 1.1 per cent increase over the previous year.
In May, during the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), annual general meeting, the tourism minister said the sector continued to do well and was poised for growth.
He attributed the successes in no small measure to the spirit of collaboration and inclusion of the sector.
Confident that things can only get better, Dr McNeill said the sector has been attracting high levels of investment, many of which include upgrading the product or constructing new rooms.
His optimism, he said, is heightened by the bill before Parliament that is designed to provide greater variety by introducing the option of timeshare vacations to Jamaica's product offering.
Even while the hotels are upgrading and the numbers are increasing, the tourism minister is assuring the country that much work is being done to improve and enhance the visitors' experience at particularly the Sangster International Airport.
"Great improvements have been made to reduce waiting time to enhance the users' experience. These improvements have received international recognition, with the airport receiving the first-place award in passenger processing from the Airports Council International," he said.
Over the next five years, several millions dollars will be spent on the introduction of new technology and to re-engineer the operations at immigration. Customs and immigration forms are also being simplified, he said.