Amidst record growth in Caribbean tourism arrivals during 2015, Antigua & Barbuda had the greatest reduction in tourist arrivals among its neighbouring OECS states.
This was indicated by the State of the Tourism Industry Report presented yesterday by the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
In the Eastern Caribbean, apart from Dominica, which had a decline of 0.3 per cent arrivals to other OECS states increased by an average of 4 per cent, while arrivals to Antigua & Barbuda declined by 0.5 per cent.
Arrivals to Caribbean region rose overall by 7 per cent in 2015, exceeding the CTO’s previous projection of 4 per cent, and totaling 28.7 million visits.
This makes 2015 the sixth consecutive year of growth for the industry.
Approximately US $30 billion was spent throughout the region by visitors in 2014.
Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO, said, “For the first time ever, the pace of growth of Caribbean tourism out performed every major tourism region in the world.”
The critical drivers behind the increases in arrivals are stated by the report to be increased airline capacity, economic recovery in the United States (US) and other main markets, and a rapid decline in global oil prices.
From the US market, there was a 6.3 per cent increase in arrivals, which accounted for around half of total regional visitors. Arrivals from the European market rose by 4.2 per cent, and from the South American market came the highest rate of growth of 18.3 per cent. Caribbean intra-regional travel also spiked in 2015, rising by 11.4 per cent to 1.7 million visitors.
While the region enjoys what appears to be continuous growth, the report cautioned that new developments such as the threat posed by the Zika virus, economic decline in China, Brazil and Venezuela, will pose obstacles to growth in the future.
Nevertheless the CTO indicated that it is confident the region will soon meet the mark of 30 million visitors, a target the organisation set several years ago and forecasts a minimum of a 4.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in 2016.