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Positive signs

Following on from last year’s mixed performance by Barbados, the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Beverly Nicholson-Doty says there are positive signs of recovery for island’s tourism and that of the rest of the region this year.

In delivering her state of the industry report today, Nicholson-Doty noted that tourist spending in 2013 grew quicker than visitor arrivals for the first time in three years.

”We see this progress in the record number of overall arrival in 2013. This progress is manifested in the rapid rise in the number of visitors from South America, who are coming to the Caribbean in record numbers. You can tell there is progress, when a record number of Caribbean residents travelled within the region for touristic purposes, despite transportation challenges,” she said.

But while the outlook is forecast to be generally better this year, Barbados’ overall fortunes last year were mixed.

It was one of eight countries experiencing a significant fall in total visitor arrivals – 5.5 per cent – representing 457,493 tourists, while reporting a double digit increase in cruise passengers – 11 per cent or 490,999 people coming by sea.

Official data provided by the CTO revealed that 108,447 visitors arrived here from the island’s main markets of the United States and Canada, down by 8.7 per cent and 59,689 from Europe or a 6.1 per cent drop.

”It’s evident that the atmosphere of despair has lifted and the Caribbean anticipates an improved performance in 2014.  Clearly we continue to face challenges, therefore, we can be neither cocky, complacent or over confident,” the CTO chairman cautioned.

“We have to fight to boost arrivals, both from the traditional markets and new and emerging markets.  The figures suggest that South America has immense potential.”

Nicholson-Doty said it is generally expected that global economies would perform better in 2014, with the IMF predicting one per cent growth across Europe and 2.8 per cent in the United States.

“The demand for travel, therefore, will remain buoyant. As a result, tourist arrivals to the Caribbean are expected to rise between two and three per cent in 2014,” added the CTO head.

She noted that cruise activity was also expected to pick up, with more ships being delivered.

“Several of these ships will be deployed in regional waters. The CTO predicts that cruise passenger arrivals to the Caribbean will increase by about three per cent in 2014.”

Nicholson-Doty indicated that the accommodation sector was fuelling the rate of progress, with visitors to the Caribbean having spent over $28 billion last year, an increase of 2.3 per cent when compared to 2012.

”The hotel sector performed even better, recording a rise of over seven and a half per cent in room revenues. During this period, all the performance indicators remained positive,” the tourism umbrella body’s leader poined out.

”However, these positive signs are tempered somewhat by the fact that the overall growth rate slowed last year in comparison to 2012. Mixed performances among the destinations resulted in a 1.8 per cent rise in tourist arrivals, a lot slower than the 4.9 per cent rise in 2012. Still the Caribbean welcomed over 25 million stay-over visitors last year, up from 24.6 million in 2012,” Nicholson-Doty reported.

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