Caribbean islands welcomed a huge number of tourists last year, with an estimated 28.7 million people visiting the region. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), tourist arrivals increased 7% in the Caribbean, while tourism hotspots elsewhere in the world experienced an increase of just 4.4%.
Moreover, tourists have increased spending. Visitors spent an estimated $30 billion, a 4.2% rise over the $28.8 billion spent in 2014. A stronger U.S. economy, new flights, lower oil prices, and persistent marketing seem to have contributed to the growth in tourist arrivals.
U.S. travelers accounted for 14.3 million visits, representing roughly half of all arrivals. Barbados, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago reported the highest growth rates in U.S. arrivals. For the first time since 2008, total arrivals from Europe reached the five million mark, a rise of 4.2% compared to 2014. More than one million people came from Britain alone.
With more than 7,000 islands and islets, the Caribbean is home to long stretches of beaches and hundreds of sea resorts. The region has long been popular with Europeans looking for fun in the sun.
“For the first time ever, the Caribbean has outpaced other major foreign tourism hotspots in the number tourist arrivals,” said Hugh Riley, the secretary general of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
With the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus decreasing in countries like Puerto Rico, analysts say the tourist number will only rise in the months ahead.
To strengthen the tourism infrastructure, the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA) has now teamed up with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and is preparing to host an investment summit in Miami later this year.