State Of Caribbean Travel

I’m stepping out of the central theme of this blog to take a look around the current state of “our” islands. “Our” islands meaning the fellow islands that rely on the tourism industry.

When referring to the Caribbean, people generally think about the islands however the Caribbean are also countries of South and Central America which coasts borders the Caribbean Sea.

The reference that multilateral tourism association Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) seems to employ as “Caribbean” are all islands in the Caribbean plus Cancun (Mexico), Cozumel (Mexico), Belize (Central America), Suriname (South America), Guyana (South America) and Bermuda (Off Coast USA). For the sake of uniformity and comparison I’m going to maintain the CTO’s reference in this article.

Recently CTO published some very interesting numbers regarding the state of Caribbean travel. Additionally I’ve searched for some more data with CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. The calculations and conclusions are my own.

Table 1 | Average arrivals (air travelers) per month

Top 10:

  1. Dominican Republic | 355,424
  2. Cuba | 194,394
  3. Cancun (Mexico) | 189,124
  4. Jamaica | 144,453
  5. Bahamas | 135,835
  6. Puerto Rico | 134,214
  7. US Virgin Islands | 63,839
  8. Aruba | 61,334
  9. Martinique | 50,311
  10. Barbados | 49,319

Source: CTO

The hottest spots in the Caribbean are Dominican Republic, Cuba, Cancun, Jamaica and The Bahamas which account for 58% of total arrivals. Dominican Republic and Cuba rely on the European and Canadian travelers, where as Cancun, Jamaica and Bahamas receive a larger group of US travelers.

Table 2 | Average arrivals (air travelers) per capita annualized*

Top 10:

  1. British Virgin Islands | 22.6
  2. Saba | 8.9
  3. Aruba | 7.4
  4. St. Maarten | 7.2
  5. Cayman Islands | 7.0
  6. Anguilla | 7.0
  7. US Virgin Islands | 6.8
  8. Bahamas | 5.3
  9. Bonaire | 5.3
  10. Bermuda | 4.7

Source: CTO | *Note: per capita and annualized figures are own calculations and NOT CTO’s. These figures are for sake of comparison and by no means to be taken as facts. Annualized figures might give a better state of tourism than last year’s figures.

Average arrivals per capita gives an idea on how many visitors the islands receive in relation to the population. I.e. for every citizen in British Virgin Islands there are 22.6 visitors per year. Per capita figures are a better measure on the state of tourism in a particular destination then absolute figures.

Following in Table 3 a comparison in Gross Domestic Product per capita between the biggest destinations and the biggest destinations per capita.

Table 3 | Comparison GDP per capita between top 5 territories Table 1 and Table 2

Table 1, top 5:

  1. Dominican Republic | $8,400
  2. Cuba | $4,100
  3. Cancun (Mexico) | $10.700*
  4. Jamaica | $4.700
  5. Bahamas | $21.600

Table 2, top 5:

  1. British Virgin Islands | $38.500
  2. Saba | $18.100
  3. Aruba | $23.300
  4. St. Maarten | $18.100
  5. Cayman Islands | $43.800

Sources: CIA World Factbook, CBS, CBA | * Note: National GDP per capita for Mexico.

To draw an educated conclusion in above comparison between top 5 most visit islands and top 5 most visited island per capita is nearly impossible. There are too many factor that influence GDP per capita than tourism alone, consequently I can’t draw a conclusion.

Table 4 | Biggest rise in tourism %

Top 5:

  1. Cancun (Mexico) | 39.7%
  2. Cozumel (Mexico) | 35.1%
  3. Bonaire | 13.9%
  4. Curacao | 12.4%
  5. Aguilla | 12.2%

Source: CTO

The reason that Cancun and Cozumel show a high percentage is due to the recovery after category 4 hurricane Wilma in 2005 devastated that area. Meanwhile Bonaire and Curacao are investing in airlift and available rooms. The airports have been upgraded as well.

Table 5 | Biggest drop in tourism %

Top 5:

  1. Cuba | -8.8%
  2. Puerto Rico | -8.6%
  3. Bahamas | -8.5%
  4. St. Lucia | -7.0%
  5. Trinidad & Tobago | -5.8%

Source: CTO


In this post I’ve put a few interesting numbers about Caribbean travel, look for your favorite destination and see how it is doing.

For an island to offer better service a healthy economic growth is necessary in order to finance potential raises to the staff and to guarantee continuity.

Poverty remains a major problem in the Caribbean as it seems like many economies are growing but wages are staying behind. Other challenges that islands face is the risk of overcrowding and overbuilding.

Travel is growing this year is with 3.7% according to CTO. These are pretty decent figures. Aruba’s travel in specific is growing above the Caribbean average with 5.8%.

By Gabriel

Informing travelers about Aruba since 2007, and trying to provide value to Aruba visitors.

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