28.7million stopover tourists visited the Caribbean in 2015 which represented a seven percent increase. Growth was up in all markets including the United States up 6.3% at 14.3million, Canada up 4.5% at 3.4 million and the United Kingdom up 10.4% at 1.1 million stopover tourists. These figures are impressive as according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization – State of the Tourism Industry Report, it marks the second consecutive year that tourism arrivals to the Caribbean as well as spend grew faster than the global growth rate for international travel. However, Caribbean destinations cannot afford to be complacent.
Caribbean destinations must not rest on their laurels because other destinations in the Americas, Europe and even further afield in the Indian Ocean also offer year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, and fantastic ocean views. This is where Caribbean destinations marketing experiences can gain a competitive edge and based on a new study conducted by international travel and tourism experts Resonance Consultancy, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba produce the most quality experiences in the Caribbean overall. Also, Culinary (42.2%), Sightseeing (25.1%), and Sports & Adventure (24.6%) are the experiences that people enjoy most in the Caribbean. Surprisingly, Entertainment (5.8%) and Culture (2.2%) are a distant fourth and fifth.
The Resonance 2016 Caribbean Tourism Quality Index released on June 2nd at the 2016 Caribbean Week in New York reviewed data for 28 Caribbean destinations all with at least 100,000 stopover annual visitors and created the Absolute Ranking measuring the total number of excellent or very good experiences in each country according to thousands of visitor reviews on TripAdvisor and other social media channels. Altogether, the report looked at 18 different data points across eight areas including:
1. Culture: Museums, Concerts & Shows
2. Entertainment: Shopping, Nightlife, Amusement Parks, Zoos & Aquariums, Casinos & Gambling, Fun & Games
3. Sightseeing: Sights & Landmarks, Nature & Parks, Sightseeing Tours
4. Sports & Adventure: Outdoor Activities, Boat Tours & Water Sports
5. Culinary: Special culinary experiences, Restaurants
6. Lodging: Hotels
7. Safety: Homicide rate
8. Connectivity: Direct international flight connections
Along with Trip Advisor for data points, 1 through 8, information for analysis came from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and OpenFlight.
From a review of these data points, the Dominican Republic the number one tourist destination in the Caribbean with 5.6million stay-over tourists last year ranked first on the Absolute Ranking list and also ranked first for Entertainment, Lodging, and Connectivity. Puerto Rico with 1.8million stopover tourists in 2015 ranked second on the list and also ranked first for Culinary and Sightseeing. Cuba with 3.6million stopover tourists in 2015 and who has benefited from the changing relationship with the United States ranked third on the list and also ranked first for Culture. The US Virgin Islands with nearly 800K stopover tourists in 2015 ranked which ranked eight on the list and also ranked first for Sports & Adventure.
To create a more level playing field for smaller Caribbean destinations, the report created an Indexed Ranking based on how many excellent or very good experiences each destination offers per hundred thousand stopover visitors, instead of just the total number of high-quality experiences. Saint Martin ranked the highest on the Index Ranking list and also scored the top ranking in four categories including Culture, Entertainment, Sports & Adventure and Culinary. Anguilla with 74K stopover tourist in 2015 shared the second place position on the list with Saint Vincent & The Grenadines who had 76K stopover tourist in 2015. Anguilla had no top category rankings but Saint Vincent & The Grenadines top ranking for Sightseeing and Lodging.
With both the Absolute Ranking and Indexed Ranking, Puerto Rico, Barbados and Guadeloupe are the only three Caribbean destinations to appear on both. Also, based on The Resonance 2016 Caribbean Tourism Quality Index, Puerto Rico has the highest performing tourism experiences in both rankings, which is no small feat considering their current financial difficulties.
To improve their overall ranking as well as in the experiences categories, Chris Fair, president of Resonance Consultancy indicates that the Caribbean “destinations need to focus on the development of new products, events or infrastructure, or improve the quality of existing ones, to improve their standing in each of the rankings.” Fair goes on to state that “for some travelers, sun, sea and sand is exactly what they are looking for, but that appeals to just one market segment who also happen to spend the least on their vacations. The most prosperous and resilient tourism economies appeal to a wide variety of market segments. Investments in product development and events not only broaden the appeal of a destination but can also increase the average daily expenditure of the visitors it receives.”
Top Photo – Bridge leading to Samaná in the Dominican Republic known for its wading and body-boarding beaches, nature trekking and whale-watching. Photo Credit: ©Saaton/Shutterstock.com.