The Caribbean tourism sector is projected to record strong growth in 2019 on the heels of a stronger-than-expected performance last year.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is forecasting 6-7% growth this year, continuing an upward trend which began last September.

“We are projecting that tourist arrivals will increase by between 6 and 7% in 2019, as the damaged infrastructure in the hurricane-impacted destinations returns to capacity. Similarly, cruise arrivals should expand by a further 4% to 5%,” Ryan Skeete, CTO’s acting Director of research revealed at the Caribbean Tourism Performance Review news conference at the CTO’s headquarters.

The CTO research director revealed that a robust 9.8% growth during the September to December period last year, led to a stronger-than-projected performance. It was a significant turnaround from the previous eight months of decline.

“Even the destinations that were severely impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, despite registering overall double-digit declines last year, experienced a significant turnaround during the last four months, registering triple-digit increases during this period,” Skeete stated.

The 29.9 million tourist visits in 2018 represented the second highest number of visitors to the Caribbean on record, surpassed only by the 30.6 million who visited in 2017.

“With a strong performance during the last four months of 2018, including a robust showing by countries impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, the evidence suggests that Caribbean tourism is on the upswing,” Skeete declared.

According to information compiled from CTO member countries, Canada was the strongest performing market – its 3.9 million visits represented a 5.7% rise. The intra-Caribbean market had its best performance ever, reaching two million visitors, while South America produced 1.9 million tourist visits, representing a 3.6% increase. Arrivals from Europe grew by a modest 1.3%, with UK arrivals remaining flat at an estimated 1.3 million. There was a healthy 28% rise in arrivals from the U.S. in the fourth quarter, reflecting the strong turnaround during this period.