Riley: Caribbean Future is Bright

Port of St. Maarten

Hugh Riley, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s secretary general, pointed to a bright future for the Caribbean in his New Year's letter.

"Regarding the cruise sector, most ports have been repaired and cruise calls have already returned to normal levels. Indeed, regional cruise visits grew in each month since May, with the region registering growth of 13.7 percent during the May to September period and 17.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018," Riley said.

In October, the region launched a new digital awareness campaign “The Rhythm Never Stops” on social media platforms, coinciding with increased airlift for the 2018-2019  winter season.

"For 2019, the outlook is bright for our destinations. We’re quite excited about declaring 2019 as the Year of Festivals in the Caribbean," Riley said. "Simply stated, there’s a rhythm to the region that cannot be replicated anywhere on earth. There’s no escaping the melody of nature, as gentle breezes and free-flowing fronds combine beautifully in perfect harmony; no getting away from the heavenly choruses of tides caressing magnificent world class beaches; no missing the cadence of our conversation, the tempo of our movement."

Overall, tourism was still down in 2018, Riley cautioned.

"Despite all there is to celebrate in 2019, we must also approach the New Year with a degree of caution since there’s still much work to be done," he said. "While preliminary data from our member countries revealed increased demand for travel to the vast majority of the 24 reporting countries, and despite a 9.1 percent increase in arrivals in September 2018 when compared to the same month in 2017, overall our performance was still down in 2018. A third quarter decline of 3.2 percent made this our best quarter, and the rate of tourist arrivals is now expected to slow to -1.0 percent to -2.0 percent - a definite sign that the tide is turning. Cruise passenger arrivals are projected to grow at an accelerated rate of around 6 percent to 7 percent."

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