Intrigued by the excitement surrounding President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Jamaica, we decided to stray a bit from our usual coverage and do some research to uncover exactly how many United States presidents had visited the Caribbean region.
Starting with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, the research compiled from the United States Office of the Historian and presented in the infographic below, reveals that 14 different United States presidents have made a total of 36 visits to the Caribbean. Included in this count which represents just 5% of the overall total are visits to Bermuda in the Northern Caribbean and the South American territory of Suriname, both members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).
Fourteen (14) Caribbean countries have had at least one visit, with the most visited countries being Bermuda with eight (8) visits, Bahamas with six (6), Trinidad & Tobago with five (5), and Jamaica with four (4) visits. President Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the distinction of most frequent visits to the region, recording a total of 14 trips. About half of those visits were informal or for holiday purposes, as Roosevelt was known to be fond of fishing in The Bahamas.
All United States presidents since Jimmy Carter have visited the region at least once, with the exception of President George W. Bush who during his two terms didn’t find time to visit the region. However, the elder President George H. W. Bush made four (4) trips to the Caribbean, while Ronald Reagan visited on three (3) occasions. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, William (Bill) Clinton, and Barack Obama have all visited the region twice.
The first visit to the Caribbean by President Barack Obama was to Trinidad & Tobago on April 17-19, 2009, when he attended the Summit of the Americas. I did wonder if this presidential visit as well as the others with increased publicity have had an impact on tourism — but difficult to tell as there are so many variables. That said, with China’s increasing courtship, aid and investment across the Caribbean, it will be interesting to see if this forces future United States presidents to visit more often to sure up relationships.
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Top photo: United States Presidents – Bush (41), Obama, Bush (43), Clinton and Carter at the White House on January 7, 2009. Photo: ©White House/Pete Souza.