What’s New in the Caribbean for 2022 | Tourism
Last April, when 70-year-old Pat George wanted to take his family on holiday, he chose the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St Maarten. “This is the first time in 35 years that our whole family has gone on vacation to the Caribbean,” said George, who runs a company called Entertainment Agency in Massachusetts.
George’s choice was not unusual last year.
Many travellers, especially those from the United States, have been drawn to the Caribbean as a pandemic vacation spot for its proximity and relatively good track record in reducing COVID-19. While inbound travel was devastated in 2020, the number of international visitors in 2021 was much higher, at least for a subset of islands: 14 of the 26 member countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization reported a increase in the number of international visitors in 2021.
“We’ve had a ‘banner’ year in tourism,” said Albert Bryan Jr., Governor of the US Virgin Islands (USVI), which welcomed 738,040 visitors by air in the first three quarters of 2021, compared to 415,749 in all. of 2020. The number of visitors arriving by air during this period even exceeded air traffic arrivals for the whole of 2019, which stood at 640,887.
Now the islands hope to capitalize on their relatively strong performance, with the aim of converting people who sought refuge during the pandemic into returning visitors. St. Croix, one of USVI’s three main islands, will invest $244 million in revitalizing its western end, including the town of Frederiksted, which will get a new dock for tender boats, smaller vessels which serve large vessels.
“It’s an emerging tourist destination, unlike St. Thomas, which has several well-known resorts,” Bryan said. “But we’ve had a serious underground market of people who have quietly come here over the years; now is the time for the regular traveler to discover Sainte-Croix.” There are also plans to put potable water on the east side of the island, as well as install a 40 megawatt solar array for energy self-sufficiency within the next five years.
Developers like John Alexander, who runs a mortgage platform called Affinity Partnerships, have recently invested heavily in the island. It plans to create more accommodations and will introduce the island’s first glamping outpost, Little Bay Eco Resort, on 54 acres on the west end, with similar-style tented units at Paws Up Montana, the resort well-known luxury campsite.
Invest in new developmentsOther Caribbean countries also saw higher-than-expected visitor numbers in 2021, including Saint Lucia, which received 52% overnight visitors compared to 2020, with the US market contributing 76% .
In Saint Lucia, which added 20,000 new air seats from the United States between June and August 2021, new housing construction is in full swing. One of the major new additions is Cabot St. Lucia, a resort slated to open in 2023 on Point Hardy, a 375-acre peninsula on the northern tip of the island. It will include a golf club, a residential community, a 40-suite hotel, luxury condos and a golf course.
Aruba saw its tourism numbers begin to rebound in July 2021, said Evelyn Wever-Croes, the island’s premier. Now, the country plans to invest about $153 million in 2022 and $264 million in 2023 to increase accommodation. “While development has filled the southern part of the island, our focus will be to balance the economic development of the island,” Wever-Croes said.
She also noted that the island’s “One Happy Workation” program, which allows visitors to stay in Aruba for up to 90 days and work without a special visa, while taking advantage of hotel deals and offers, was crowned with success in 2021; each month, 10% of visitors to the island came under the program. It continues this year.
Missing touristsBut tourism in the Caribbean is far from normal, with visitors from several key regions – including Europe, Australia and Asia – still largely absent.
Stewart Howard, CEO of Ambergris Cay, a private island resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, said Canadians have been particularly absent from the Caribbean since March 2020 because they face mandatory quarantine upon returning to Canada and do not Were not very keen on traveling across the United States for connecting flights to the Caribbean. “Almost all visitors to the resort have been from America in the past two years,” he said. (Fully vaccinated Canadian travelers no longer have to quarantine when they return home, although they must test negative to enter the country.)
Howard noted that amenities at Ambergris Cay will expand over the coming year to include a clubhouse, additional restaurant and new suites to meet what he predicts will be strong future demand. “Now what we’re seeing are aggressive bookings, but for stays of six to nine months,” he said.
Not all Caribbean islands saw an increase in visitor numbers from 2020 to 2021. Some, such as the Cayman Islands, Dominica and Barbados, saw a drop in overnight visitor arrivals for reasons including: ease or difficulty of access. Before the pandemic, Dominica was only accessible by small regional planes or by ferry. When one of the major inter-regional airlines, LIAT, suspended all flights in March 2020, the island was hit hard and has not recovered. In December, American Airlines launched the first nonstop flight to the island from Miami, raising hopes that visitor numbers would increase.
Anguilla also received its first nonstop flight from Miami in December, also on American Airlines. “It will switch to daily flights from April,” said Georgios Tserdakidis, Anguilla’s chief marketing officer, hoping easier travel will help boost tourism. The country plans to expand its Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport and a new $5.5 million Blowing Point ferry terminal is under construction.
Other destinations, such as Trinidad and the Cayman Islands, closed their borders to visitors at the start of the pandemic and did not open to tourist travel until late 2021.
Proximity also played a role – the Bahamas is the closest group of islands to the United States and people wanted to be closer to the mainland for safety reasons, according to a spokesperson for the United Nations Tourism Organization. Caribbean.
Visitors loyal to a certain island region of the Caribbean have also decided to stay at home rather than visit a different destination. “It had a big impact when St. Barths closed its doors to tourists last year in February,” said Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, president of Fischer Travel Enterprises, a travel agency. “It was a very popular destination for our clientele, but they didn’t pivot to another destination because Saint-Barth is unique.”
Other Caribbean islands, such as the Dominican Republic, which welcomed nearly 5 million visitors in 2021, more than any other Caribbean country, are investing heavily in hotels to prepare for what they expect to be. even greater demand once the pandemic has passed. Luis Abinader, the country’s president, recently revealed that the Pedernales tourism development project in Cabo Rojo – considered the first Caribbean tourist destination to be developed from scratch through a public-private partnership – will be carried out in four phases over 10 years, and with an estimated investment of over $2 billion. The first phase will start with six hotel chains.
Smaller islands too, such as Tobago, which has a population of just over 60,000, plan to invest in infrastructure to attract tourists. The ANR Robinson International Airport expansion project will include the construction of a new terminal and several other improvements, including a tarmac extension and a new $1.2 billion parking lot. The island also welcomed international flights in January 2022, when British Airways and Virgin Atlantic resumed flights from a key market: Britain.
With all the development, the islands hope they can entice visitors like Cate Misczuk, 29, who resides in Utrecht, the Netherlands, to return. She first visited the Caribbean in November 2021, flying to the island of Barbados because her parents own a timeshare property there.
“I didn’t know what to expect, especially when it came to COVID,” she said. “But Barbados totally blew my mind.”