The Caribbean on its Way to Record Year in Tourist Arrivals

02 February 2019 3:44pm
Caribbean beach

Visitor arrivals in Antigua grew by nearly nine percent in 2018, said Colin James of the Antigua and Barbuda tourism Authority.

The strong visitor growth several Caribbean destinations exhibited prior to the devastating hurricanes of September 2017 is quickly resuming, with several countries in the region announcing sharply increased visitor numbers for 2018, along with strong early season results in 2019.

Tourism officials shared the improved visitor numbers at this week’s Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace at Jamaica’s Montego Bay Conference Center.

The positive results were propelled by expanded airlift, new resorts and expanded cruise ship traffic, said officials at the gathering.

Antigua and Barbuda exhibited record-setting visitor growth in 2018, hosting 1.1 million visitors, exceeding 2017’s total by 20,000 travelers, according to Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority. Overnight, land-based visitors grew by 8.75 percent compared with 2017, exceeding each year between 2014 and 2017.

James said Canadian travelers accounted for the largest increase in 2018, growing by a substantial 66 percent. U.S. visitors increased by eight percent while travelers from the U.K. remained stable “despite Brexit uncertainties,” said James.

Growing air service has the dual-island nation poised to extend its record visitor growth in 2019. Delta Air Lines will launch new weekly, roundtrip flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 20, while American Airlines this year added a second, daily roundtrip flight from Miami, utilizing larger, B737 Max aircraft that adds 168 additional seats per week to the Miami-Antigua route.

Canadian carriers will also offer more flights to Antigua in 2019, with WestJet offering additional flights from Toronto and Sunwing Airlines launching thrice-weekly service from Toronto and introducing new flights from Montreal beginning this summer.

Antigua’s cruise business has also displayed robust growth. The country is building a new cruise ship berth that is expected to be in operation by mid-2019. The new dock will accommodate Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class vessels, the cruise industry’s largest. Ritz Carlton Cruises and Virgin Cruises will make inaugural calls in Antigua beginning in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Antigua will also welcome new hotel capacity this year, with the all-inclusive Royalton Antigua scheduled to open in June. The family-friendly resort will offer distinct “resort” and “diamond” sections. Another 15 new properties are slated to launch by 2021, including new Marriott, Rosewood, Best Western and Hilton Waldorf Astoria hotels representing 2,535 rooms. The new resorts will more than double Antigua’s current hotel capacity.

Saint Lucia ended 2018 with 2.2 percent visitor arrivals increase. The destination hosted 394,780 overnight, land-based travelers last year, with 45 percent hailing from the U.S., Saint Lucia’s largest market. Another 10.5 percent of the travelers hailed from Canada said Saint Lucia Tourism Authority officials. The country’s cruise visitors increased to 669,217 passengers in 2018, a 13.6 percent year-over-year increase.

Saint Lucia is also poised to benefit from increased air access in 2019. In December American Airlines re-launched daily, nonstop flights from Miami International Airport to Saint Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport. American resumed seasonal, weekly flights to Saint Lucia from Philadelphia in December.

Hewanorra International Airport will receive a $100 million redevelopment beginning this year, with completion scheduled for the end of 2020. The project will add new restaurants, shops and executive lounges.

“Newly added flights and the much-anticipated unveiling of the redeveloped Hewanorra International Airport will shine a light on the world-class tourism offerings in Saint Lucia, and contribute to the government’s broader plan to expand the island’s room stock by 50 percent in the next eight years,” said Dominic Fedee, Saint Lucia’s tourism minister.

Grenada welcomed 528,077 visitors in 2018, a 12.9 percent increase over 2017. The total included 160,970 land-based travelers, a 9.97 percent increase, and 342,826 cruise ship arrivals, a 14.5 percent year-over-year increase.

Grenada’s air service will expand this year as American Airlines added an additional seasonal flight from Miami in December. Canadian carrier Sunwing launched 22 flights to Grenada from Toronto in December, with service extending through April. In December Air Canada added a third weekly flight to Grenada from Toronto.

Grenada will also add a new 300-room Royalton Grenada resort in December via a renovation of the former Grenadian by Rex Resorts property. Also in the works is a Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort property. The beachfront resort will open in two phases, with 92 rooms and suites available in 2020 and another 120 slated to debut by 2021.

Source: Travel Pulse

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