Before COVID-19, the Caribbean set all-time record for visitor arrivals

The Caribbean has long been renowned as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Before the pandemic outbreak grounded virtually all planes,  the region raised the bar in 2019 by welcoming a record number of visitors, with stayover arrivals totalling 31.5 million, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. This marked a 4.4% rise from 2018, outpacing the global tourism rate of 3.8%. By focusing on the development of a few key areas, the Caribbean has reaped the rewards. Here’s how they managed to do it and which Caribbean destinations should top your post-lockdown bucket list as your go-to holiday

Development of the ecotourism sector

The Caribbean is a great destination for travellers aiming to make their holidays more environmentally responsible, with conservation and local socio-economic development widely promoted across many of its islands. Worldwide demand for so-called ecotourism is growing by 5% a year and, attracted by the verdant landscapes and diverse wildlife, ecotourists are flocking to the Caribbean.

Dominica is arguably the jewel in the region’s crown, nicknamed the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its lush rainforests, magnificent mountains, and wondrous waterfalls. The island has opened up a number of resorts over the last few years to accommodate the rise in ecotourists, largely funded by its citizenship by investment programme, which accounts for a significant proportion of government’s revenue. One of the most notable eco-resorts is the spectacular Jungle Bay in Morne Trois Piton National Park, where visitors can stay in sustainably-designed eco-villas overlooking the island’s marine sanctuary. This reopened on a different coast in July 2019 after it was destroyed by a tropical storm four years previously. Some typical ecotourism activities on the island include helping to build ecolodges, birdwatching, and hiking, while the infinity pool in the heart of the rainforest blending into the Caribbean Sea is nothing short of pure bliss.

If you feel like you never want to leave, well – there’s actually a legal way to do this within 3 months. Dominica has a Citizenship by Investment Programme and if you invest at least US$200,000 in Jungle Bay or several other resorts, pass all due diligence checks, you might be one of the lucky ones to be able to call yourself a proud citizen of Dominica – the ‘Nature Isle of the Caribbean’.

Meanwhile, Bonaire declared itself the world’s first Blue Destination in 2018, owing to its sustainable use of ocean resources, including allowing visitors to take part in underwater clean-up dives. Another Caribbean island where ecotourism is thriving is Tobago, which has been described by The Spectator as ‘one of the pioneers in this field’. Its ventures are ‘strikingly mindful of the local environment’, offering ecolodges aplenty and opportunities to assist endangered turtles.

Growth of the cruise industry

Another massive reason for the impressive performance of the Caribbean tourism industry is the growth of its cruise sector. The region has long been the world’s most popular destination for these trips, accounting for just over a third of total cruise ship deployment. As such, it has played a fundamental part in the global industry’s astonishing growth over the last decade, which saw worldwide annual cruise ship passengers rise from 17.8 million to 30 million.

The Caribbean cruise industry had another stellar year in 2019 and became the fastest-growing in the world after a 5% capacity increase in passengers from 2018 — an extra half a million people. This continued success is a result of its diverse range of paradisiacal islands, perfect cruising climate, close proximity to North America, and the wide choice of luxurious ships for travellers.

St Kitts and Nevis is certainly a must for all cruise lovers. It recently extended its cruise capacity using funds from foreign investors who wanted to become citizens of St Kitts and Nevis.

Investment in real estate accommodation

Sustained investment in Caribbean resorts has given holidaymakers far more choice and made visiting the region an even more attractive prospect. In December 2019, the Financial Times reported 61 hotel projects under construction in the Caribbean, up from 27 in September 2010, showing just how much investment continues to be made. During 2018 and 2019 specifically, numerous notable Caribbean resorts were officially opened, which may help explain why so many people flocked there last year. This includes the highly-anticipated Silversands resort on Grenada’s southwest coastline, Jamaica’s 120-room S Hotel in Montego Bay, and the luxurious Hodges Bay Resort and Spa in Antigua. Expect this trend to continue with a whole host of new resorts set to open in 2020.

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