The Caribbean has emerged as the global region of choice for tourists in 2023, continuing its dominance of destination rankings since the pandemic.
Seven of the world’s top ten most visited countries have a Caribbean coastline, a new travel trends report produced by sector analytics firm ForwardKeys revealed.
The Dominican Republic heads the list, with 14% more visitors set to arrive by air this year than in 2019, followed by Costa Rica and Aruba, both 11% ahead; Jamaica and Puerto Rico, both 9% ahead; and Colombia and Mexico, both 5% ahead.
The list is completed by The Bahamas and Greece, both 3% ahead and Saudi Arabia, receiving the same number of flight arrivals as in 2019.
Global air traffic this year is set to finish 25% behind 2019’s peak, according to the report based on air tickets issued up to September 26, which capture scheduled flight arrivals to that date and bookings until the end of the year.
The benchmark is 2019, the last normal year of international travel before the industry was decimated by the pandemic.
Other notable travel trends include the recovery of city tourism, growing popularity of African safaris, a strong revival of family group travel, increased demand for premium cabin classes, fewer but longer trips, and lead times between booking and travel lengthening to pre-pandemic norms.
An alternative analysis, focusing on a top 20 ranking of mainstream destinations, shows that only four – Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico and Greece – are set to exceed flight arrivals last seen in 2019.
After Saudi Arabia, sixth place is taken by Portugal, 1% behind; followed by Argentina, 3% behind, UAE, 7% behind, Turkey, 9% behind and Egypt, 10% behind.
The Caribbean’s success has been driven by the strong appeal of beach holidays, proximity to the world’s strongest outbound travel market, the US, and the region’s economic dependence on tourism.
ForwardKeys insights vice president Olivier Ponti said: “In 2023, many destinations and travel businesses remained focused on recovery post-Covid-19.
“The speed of that recovery has varied by region, but by the end of 2024, it will be complete, even for those countries that lifted travel restrictions most recently.
“This brings destinations back to the issues they were dealing with pre-pandemic. Where do they want to go with tourism? What type of tourism? For what purpose? But while the questions persist, the context has changed, shaped by geopolitical events, technological advances and rising concerns about sustainability.
“‘Growth at all costs’ is no longer viable. Destinations and travel businesses need to focus on new models of tourism which are socially, economically and environmentally responsible.”
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