Written by ADARA
The resilience of the Caribbean was tested in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. Natural disasters and the uncertainty surrounding their impact on tourism left many questions for potential visitors, but the Caribbean’s distinct draw is expected to minimize the lull in tourism and spur visitation to the region again.
ADARA, the world’s travel data co-op, released figures comparing international flight and hotel searches for Caribbean destinations in 2016 versus 2017, which uncovered interesting data surrounding the Caribbean’s state of tourism leading up to and following the hurricanes.
Prior to August when the first hurricane hit, travel to Caribbean countries was on the rise with Summer 2017 attracting five percent more travelers than Summer 2016, even despite hotel prices increasing six percent for business travelers and seven percent for leisure travelers. A strong summer last year was beneficial for Caribbean destinations’ local economies, as well as exposing more business and leisure travelers to the destination’s unique offerings. Even with positive forecasts, natural disasters of this magnitude will make an impact. ADARA’s report revealed a clear decline in searches between August and November when compared to the same time frame in 2016.
A decrease in visitation doesn’t necessarily signal a long-term slowdown for the Caribbean, however. By understanding the strong tourism landscape leading up to the hurricanes, a promising prediction about what recovery looks like can more accurately be made.
Not only was the total number of travelers climbing pre-hurricane, but the money spent by each visitor also increased. ADARA’s data shows that the average length of stay rose by about 20 percent from 2016 to 2017, indicating a substantial increase in the average spend per visitor with the addition of extra accommodations, meals, transportation and other smaller expenses. Interestingly, the destinations hit hardest by the hurricanes – Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Antigua & Barbuda – experienced a greater increase than other Caribbean countries. The data shows that visitors to these countries stayed a minimum of two nights longer than in 2016.
Hurricane Irma was devastating for the Caribbean in so many ways, but as shown by the report comparing visitation in 2016 and 2017, the dynamism and allure of the Caribbean was strong last year and spending is up. If the trend continues, 2018 looks promising for the Caribbean.