Visitor arrivals continued to rise in the Caribbean, fuelled by improvements in the United States and Canadian markets, said a tourism boss.
In a special message from the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s secretary-general, Hugh Riley, he said that the region continued to face challenges in Europe and particularly the United Kingdom. That source market’s numbers were falling and visitor spending had been sluggish in 2012, he noted.
“The latest figures from our research department reveal a 5 per cent rise in arrivals overall,” Mr. Riley said.
“There are clear signs that our performance in the US – our region’s main source market – is improving, with arrival numbers up by 5.3 per cent. The Canadian market has also continued to grow, with total arrivals from the Great White North matching the US at 5.3 per cent.”
The UK, on the other hand, had recorded a decline of more than 6 per cent, Mr. Riley said.
The Summer Olympics did have some effect, leading to marginal growth in the UK economy, which is still struggling to rebound, he added.
“Another factor we can’t ignore is the severe impact that the unfair and discriminatory air passenger duty is having on our region’s performance in the British market. Much to the disappointment and frustration of the Caribbean, this crippling tax is due to rise even further in April 2013, while the discriminatory aspect of the distance ‘banding’ system remains.
“A family of four visiting the Caribbean and flying in economy will be expected to fork out 332 pounds sterling for air passenger duty – and double that amount for a few extra inches of leg room if they fly in any class above economy. On the contrary, that same family would pay less air passenger duty to fly to US destinations that are far further away from London than any Caribbean country. This is an issue the organisation and its member countries and partners will continue to fight,” Mr. Riley said.
However, despite challenges, he said that the Caribbean had “got through 2012 with our chins up and our resolve unfazed”.
“Many of our member countries have scored major successes regionally and internationally, often parlaying those wins to the benefit of their tourism sector,” he said.
Mr. Riley concluded that the organisation’s stated vision was “to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination by 2017”, and that the new chairman, Ms Nicholson-Doty, was already focusing on key areas including aviation and taxation thereof.
The secretary-general concluded his message by noting that the organisation intended to work closer with member nations and partners in 2013 to drive opportunities and services.
“We take our responsibility seriously and will use every resource available to us to improve the quality of life of all Caribbean people through tourism,” Mr. Riley said.