Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 9.7% during the first half of 2019 over the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Speaking at a press conference for the World Travel Market trade show in London held last week, CTO chairman Dominic Fedee said this performance was more than double the global average of 4.4%.

Between January and June this year tourist visits to the Caribbean increased by 1.5 million to 17.1 million compared to the same period in 2018. The growth was driven predominantly by the US market, which jumped by 20.2%, totalling a first-half record 8.9 million overnight international tourists. In addition, some 2.1 million Canadian tourists stayed in the region during the first half of this year, a 2.4% rise when compared to the same period in 2018.

However, the European market was flat, registering a marginal 0.4% increase to 2.9 million trips, with the UK market down by 1.7%, mainly due to significant declines in Cuba, which fell by 22%, and the Dominican Republic, which was down by 15.3%.

A range of factors supported the gains made so far this year, the CTO said, including increased air capacity between the region and major sources, expansions in the accommodation sector and the positive positioning of the destinations’ brands in the various source markets.

Cruise tourism to the region saw a new record of 16.7 million cruise visits during the period, after a jump of 1.3 million year on year. The present estimated cruise-tourism growth rate of 8.1% eclipsed that for similar periods in the last four years.

“The strong results recorded in the first half reflect the resilience of individual destinations and demonstrate their ability to skilfully navigate global political and economic concerns, including Brexit and the ongoing trade wars which threaten the stability of the global economy,” the organisation said.

Looking forward to the remainder of this year, based on current trends, and considering the various global issues, the CTO forecast an increase of between 5% and 7% in stayover arrivals and a 4% to 5% rise in cruise passenger visits.