BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - ST. KITTS-NEVIS saw significant increases in tourist arrivals last year over 2021, which is indicative of the uptick in the number of arrivals across the region based on statistics provided by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
According to statistics provided by the CTOF, with the exception of data from the Vance Amory International Airport, in 2022 St. Kitts and Nevis recorded 77,746 arrivals.
That number represents a 299.8 percent increase over 2021, with the winter season representing the bulk of the changes.
According to the data, June (7,122). July (7, 330) and December (11, 421) were the months that saw the major tourist arrivals for the last calendar year.
The increase could be the result of a number of factors, including the return of the St. Kitts Music Festival, the dropping of COVID-19 regulations, and the full return of Carnival activities..
Globally, there was a 62.6 percent increase in the number of tourists who travelled in 2022, which totalled 917 million, doubling the number of 2021.
In the Caribbean, there were 28.3 million travellers reported, an uptick of 52.4 percent over 2021 which is approximately 3.1 percent of the global travellers, down one percent from the historical high in 2021.
The growth was affected by high inflation, supply chain disruptions and geopolitical tensions, among other challenges, according to the Acting Secretary General of the CTO, Neil Walters.
During his speech at a press engagement in Barbados to highlight the Caribbean Tourism Performance and Outlook, Walters disclosed that there were increased arrivals in stayover visitors, cruise arrivals and an uptick in hotel bookings.
Despite nearly all destinations stop collecting survey data, the General Secretary revealed that “it is estimated that visitors to the Caribbean region spent between US$36.5 billion and US$37.5 billion in 2022, an increase of 70.0% to 75.0% compared to 2021”.
In his predictions for 2023, Chair of the CTO Council of Ministers, Kenneth Bryan asserted that despite the challenges the region faced by the pandemic, it “responded with hope, strength and the determination to prevail”.
That comes against the backdrop of the region once again ending 2022 registering higher than predicted arrivals, which Bryan noted “is a clear indication that the sector is bouncing back and hopes are high that the robust pace of recovery will continue into 2023 and beyond”.
“This is a position also supported by stakeholders such as the World Travel and Tourism Council, which has forecast 5.5% annual growth for the Caribbean over the next 10 years, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which is predicting Caribbean economic growth of 5.7 % in 2023, based in part on the continued revival of tourism,” said Bryan.
But despite the expected growth, the travel figures and estimates have not yet surpassed 2019, but there is optimism that the “needle is certainly moving in the right direction”.
The Chairman used the platform to touch on a number of issues including his vision to restructure the organization to meet the growing needs of member organizations, and also to foster partnerships with a number of other regional and international organizations.
But critical to the region’s economic rebound is the challenge to the intra-regional travel, which Bryan lamented is a major impediment to the development of the enhancement of the regional tourism industry.
“Turning my attention now to the nagging issue of air connectivity, tourism is a significant economic driver for us all, and yet the lack of inter-regional air connectivity continues to pose a risk to our resilience and sustainability. It is a situation that has existed and been talked about for decades, and has worsened due to the economic effects of the covid pandemic
“Why?” he asked, and retorted: “Because the slowdown in tourism has caused airlines to re-evaluate their business structures and routes from a position of profitability more so than connectivity. Additionally, there is a global shortage of pilots also adding another layer of complexity to this longstanding issue. It would be illogical for me to promise a solution to this issue during my tenure as Chairman. But what I can and will commit to, is getting the players around the table to forensically examine what we need to do as a unified region to improve this scenario and starting the ball rolling towards the solution.”
Meanwhile, he spoke of the added benefits of properly functioning intra-regional travel systems aside from the convenience.
Bryan reminded that “improving regional connectivity would have a knock-on effect that would positively influence travel for all sorts of reasons; such as business, leisure, sports, conferences and meetings, and could potentially transform the region”.
He continued: “The added benefit, aside from tourism, is that it would facilitate and encourage residents across the Caribbean to travel more easily to other islands to visit family and friends.”
In the meantime, the Chairman promised to continue working alongside stakeholders and partners to maintain the momentum of growth while also seeking to build more resilience in the tourism space.