Lonely Planet Writer

It's a booming year for tourism in the Caribbean and it's still the most popular place in the world

Despite concerns over the spread of zika virus, Caribbean tourism has been on a steady increase since 2015 and is set to pass the 30 million mark in 2016, marking an all-time high in visitors. In 2015, the region hosted 28.7 million international travellers, and this year it led off with a booming start, exhibiting a 7.3% increase in the first quarter, with nearly 8.5 million visitors touching down in airports across the region.

Aruba Image by Christian Cordova / CC BY 2.0

Of the Caribbean countries, nineteen of them exhibited an increase in tourism travel in 2015, and eight of them showed a growth percentile in the double digits, ranging from 10.5 to 26.5%; Aruba, Barbados and Cuba led the pack with high growth, followed by Curacao, Trinidad & Tobago, and Haiti, while the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica hosted the largest number of total visitors. Intra-regional travel is largely credited as the impetus behind the growth, alongside a spike in European visitors.

Last year the Caribbean topped every major tourism region in the world regarding visiting travellers, with experts citing falling oil prices, rising seat capacity across airlines, and an improved global economy as key factors that supported the forward progress.

North America has been the largest travel market for the Caribbean, with visitors from the United States and Canada comprising around 60% of visiting travellers. While European numbers have been historically lower in comparison, that market experienced a sharp increase in 2015, and the South American market also demonstrated a significant increase in the rate of growth. The Caribbean Tourism Organization projects a growth percentage between 4.5 and 5.5 by December of this year, which will place the number of arrivals over the current record.