Snippets from the Caribbean

By | Category: Travel destinations

This week is the annual get together in the Bahamas when buyers and sellers meet at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The purpose is to persuade the travel trade from around the world to promote the Caribbean generally and all of its individual islands and countries

St Lucia. Will a new accommodation tax put any holidaymakers off from visiting the island?

Despite the hurricanes of last year and the damage they caused to some islands, many Caribbean nations have reported good visitor numbers for last year.

Last year, the Bahamas was running some 17% up on hotel occupancy according to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. Then Hurricane Dorian hit and occupancy dropped like a stone despite the fact that only two of the islands in the group were affected. People have a habit of hearing a problem and tying everything in the vicinity into it. Luckily for the island group, tourists have forgotten and are returning.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority celebrated the 300,000th visitor on the very last day of 2019 indicating that tourism last year rose by 14.9%, considerably above what is expected to be the world wide average of less than 5%. Part of its success, the tourist authority claims is because it targeted the low season as a time for visitors to go.

The figures will also reflect the fact that, after Hurricane Irma in 2017 hit Barbuda so devastatingly, the islands have bounced back and are growing strongly even allowing for the low base in 2018.

Antiguan beach
Antigua – the tourist authority wants us to consider this a summer destination as well as a winter one

Like many Caribbean nations and islands, the Dominican Republic was affected by the demise of Thomas Cook. (Come to think of it find me a travel agent, tour operator, airline or destination that was not affected in some way and they will be an oddity.)But it still managed to see about 160,000 Britons visit the country in 2019 and it is expecting about 200,000 of us to visit this year. Why the confidence? Because British Airways and TUI have put on additional flights more than making up for the loss of the Thomas Cook ones. In fact TUI picked up all of the Thomas Cook capacity on its own so the BA flights are a bonus, hence the confidence.

Although Puerto Rico was affected by a flurry of earthquakes in late December and early January including some ones that registered over five on the Richter Scale, it opened remarkably quickly as prompt action got things up and running in most of the affected areas. Indeed three cruise ships docked on January 8th bringing 15,000 visitors to the island. Just two tourist areas seem to be affected, Punta Ventana in Guayanilla and the Ruins of the Lighthouse in Guánica but the island is keen to remind us that it is definitely open for business.

Jamaica will have its first cruise ship docking in the new cruise port of Port Royal at the end of the month. In preparation for this the tourism ministry is going to adopt prescribed status meaning that it there will be tighter controls of what can happen in the area. The idea behind this move is to ensure that cruise passengers don’t get hassled by hawkers as happens in some ports.

Belize was another country in the region that recorded good tourism figures for 2019. For the very first time it surpassed half-a- million overnight visitors in a single year. Some years ago the aim of the country was to hit 556,000 overnight visitors by 2030. On these figures it looks as that will be achieved much earlier. Having more than doubled arrivals in the last ten years the next ten might mean the million mark will be reached. Once again, the addition of more direct flights has helped Belize expand.

the coast of Belize has become a big attraction for divers

St Lucia is lucky enough not to see hurricanes that often compared to other Caribbean states. Consequently it has a good year and is hoping for more increases so that by 2022 it will see over 540,000 stay over visitors per year as opposed to those that are counted from cruise ship visits.

But it might deter some because as from April Fool’s Day (why on earth do destinations do anything on that day when they must surely know that pernickety people like me will draw attention to it?) the country is introducing an accommodation tax.

Justifying it on the basis that some other countries in the region have one so they will to, the money raised is going to be spent – as we are tod all the time – on tourism development. It will be used to promote Saint Lucia (it is already spending $35 million on promotions) in its key destinations, including the UK, the US, Canada and the rest of the Caribbean and Europe. The fee will also be used to support village tourism development and destination management, as well as the development of local products in Saint Lucia.

The tax will be a topic of conversation this week but not as big a topic as how to entice more of us to holiday there.

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