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Regional tourist arrivals, expenditure set records in 2017
In spite of the challenges of the past year, visitor arrivals to the Caribbean increased, hitting a new record both in terms of visitors and expenditure.
This was revealed by Head of Research, Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Ryan Skeete during yesterday's Tourism Industry Performance Review and Press Briefing, St. Michael's, Barbados.
He said along with the 30.1 million stay-over visits, visitor expenditure had been estimated at US $37 billion.
CTO Secretary General, Hugh Riley said, "In short, despite the severe challenges of 2017, more visitors arrived in the Caribbean and they spent more."
Questioning if that was enough and work was over now, Riley assured, "Not by a long way."
"The Caribbean, with our highly competitive tourism product, has quite some distance to go in order to realize our full potential."
Elaborating about the CTO's plans to capitalise on these developments in the coming months, Riley said it would begin with the Organisation of American States Ministerial Congress, Georgetown, Guyana - which will be held on March 21 and 22.
He said policy-makers and industry executives will propose strategies for bringing the countries of the Americas closer, in the pursuit of sustainable tourism.
Riley said 2018 has been dubbed the Year of Rejuvenation in the Caribbean.
He said, "Many of our CTO member-countries have embarked on programs that connect to the multi-billion dollar rejuvenation, spa and wellness industry."
Riley advised that building the Caribbean Brand required more than just sparsely funded, ad hoc efforts.
He cautioned, "Our first order of business as a region is to stop treating tourism as some sort of casual pursuit."
"Tourism is a serious business as it employs, directly and indirectly, 13.7 per cent of the people in the Caribbean, and it contributes in total, from 7 per cent to over 80 per cent to Gross Domestic Product across the region."
He stated, "Tourism is the business that delivers foreign exchange every time a plane lands and a cruise ship docks."
"It reduces unemployment and delivers massive amounts of tax dollars to our national treasuries."
He said persons needed to worry why the occupancy rate across the region was still below 70 per cent, which meant of every hundred rooms available in the Caribbean, on average, at least 30 are going empty every night.
He said this was an opportunity to market the Caribbean more effectively to improve the quality of services substantially and enhance the value of product significantly in order to fill empty rooms.
Riley said, "Until we do those things, we are not capitalizing on the substantial investment we have already made to build the plant in the first place, and we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to further erosion of our competitive position."
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