Caribbean Celebrates First Quarter Travel Boom

Early numbers have officials optimistic for the rest of 2019.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay Jamaica

Jamaica saw a record two million visitors through May, while the rest of the Caribbean projects to enjoy strong tourism numbers through the rest of 2019.Shutterstock

With some islands still recovering from the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria and other storms, the Caribbean received some good news from the first quarter of 2019. During a recent appearance at Caribbean Week New York, Caribbean Tourism Organization chairman Dominic Fedee reported a 12 percent increase in tourist arrivals between January and March.

Said Fedee: “Overall, a statistical analysis of the first quarter gives us much to celebrate as substantial numbers indicate healthy economic conditions in key source markets and a strong resurgence of tourism in destinations impacted by the 2017 hurricanes.”

The CTO estimates 9.1 million international tourist trips for the first three months of the year, which is an increase of more than 970,000 from the same time in 2018. Arrivals from the U.S. were up 24 percent, with approximately 4.5 million visits, the most of any nation. Another 1.5 million tourists arrived from Canada, which marked a four percent rise from 2018. The number of European visitors, however, only increased by .6 percent to 1.6 million.

The surge in tourism has established a new record for Jamaica, with 2 million visitors arriving through May.

“That is the first time in the history of Jamaica that within the first five months of the year, we have brought two million visitors to Jamaica,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said.

The Jamaican government is continuing efforts to keep more of the tourism money for the benefit of people employed in the island's hospitality industry. The government reportedly collects 40.8 cents from every tourism dollar spent, up from 30 cents last year.

The first quarter also saw a huge boost for the Bahamas, with a 43 percent increase in travel demand from 2018.

Another record was set by the cruise sector, with 10.7 million passenger visits, up almost 10 percent.

Overall, this “strong resurgence of tourism” has the CTO optimistic about the potential for the rest of the year, with officials predicting as much as a nine percent increase in tourist arrivals, as well as a 6.5 percent increase in cruise arrivals.