Tourism in the Caribbean rebounded in 2022 after the pandemic with historic figures in the Mexican beaches of Cancun, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and an almost total recovery in Colombia, although still lagging behind in Cuba.
In Mexico, the country that concentrates almost half of the international tourism in Latin America, according to the consulting firms Statista and Latinometrics, the state of Quintana Roo had a record of more than 30 million arrivals at the Cancun airport, according to the state government.
“We closed with a total of 19.7 million tourists, people who stayed overnight in our hotels and here we are adding national tourists and international tourists,” detailed Javier Aranda, director of the Tourism Promotion Council of the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, which captures about 47.5% of international tourism in Mexico.
Mexico consolidates its position
Mexico consolidated its position as the third most visited country in the world during the first year of the covid-19 pandemic in the absence of restrictions, but Aranda said that many are now “repeat” tourists.
These tourists, although they have the opportunity to go to other places, have already known the delights of enjoying the different destinations of Quintana Roo and that gives us a great advantage because they want to return to learn more, Aranda said.
The official explained that there are now almost 127,000 hotel rooms after recovering the investment.
“There were more than 235 restaurants with investments of more than one million dollars in the Mexican Caribbean, from Chetumal to Holbox,” added Marcy Bezaleel Pacheco, state president of the National Chamber of the Restaurant and Seasoned Food Industry (Canirac).
Dominican Republic: “record and exemplary”.
The Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic reported that it registered 7.1 million tourists by air and 1.3 million by cruise ships, surpassing the pre-pandemic level and reaching record figures in 2022, the year in which the World Tourism Organization (WTO) recognized it for its “exemplary” tourism recovery.
According to figures from the Tourism portfolio, visitors generated a record US$8.671 billion to the country last year, with a 10% growth compared to 2019 in tourist arrivals by air and 20% in cruises.
Andrés Marranzini, executive vice president of the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants of the Dominican Republic (Asonahores), explained that the Dominican hotel sector closed 2022 with national occupancy exceeding 75 %.
“It is a very good occupancy. During all the months we received more tourists than we did pre-pandemic,” he said.
Before the pandemic, “we were close to 70 %, but never in the figures we experienced in 2022”, he added.
Even in December, the number of visitors surpassed 700,000, a figure that constitutes “a milestone”, with an average of 400,000 travelers per month in 2022.
Also a milestone in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s tourism sector had a record in 2022 in both jobs in the industry (more than 91,000) and in lodging revenues ($1.6 billion) and passengers at its international airport (more than 10 million).
“We had a very good year in 2022, it surpassed 2021, which had so far been the best year in Puerto Rico’s history in terms of tourism,” said Ricardo Cortés, director of Public Affairs for the official tourism promotion organization Discover Puerto Rico.
Cortés noted that the industry “is growing and expanding, and is showing very healthy numbers for the local economy.”
He listed as “milestones” the 14.6% growth in employment versus 2019, and the $1.6 billion in revenues in the local lodging industry, almost double what existed six years ago.
Colombia, practically recovered
Tourism in Colombia is practically recovered after the pandemic, with more than 3.5 million international travelers between January and October 2022, a growth of 145.2 % compared to the same period last year, according to Migración de Colombia.
Compared to the same months of 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, the figures represent a 98.6% recovery.
The mecca of Colombian tourism continues to be Cartagena de Indias, a sun and beach destination that, in addition to its attractive colonial buildings, also became the “Leading Honeymoon Destination in South America 2022”, a recognition received at the World Travel Awards 2022, known as the “Oscars of Tourism”.
“When you arrive in Cartagena, you really breathe in what is love, the city is very romantic, it is a wonderful setting, it has a special colorfulness. The Caribbean sunsets give it a touch that seduces couples a lot,” said the executive president of the Cartagena de Indias Tourism Corporation, Natalia Bohórquez, at the International Tourism Fair (Fitur) in Madrid.
Cuba still lagging behind
Cuba aims to reach 3.5 million tourists by 2023, still far from the 5 million reached before the pandemic.
The island faces this key challenge for its economic recovery, since tourism is the second largest contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) and the third largest source of foreign exchange, after falling short of its goal of 1.7 million in 2022.
However, José Luis Perelló, professor at the University of Havana and tourism expert, considered that “it is not possible” to reach 3.5 million, so his estimate for this year is about 2.3 million.
He explained that part of Cuba’s problems in recovering pre-2020 levels are the U.S. sanctions and the ruling in that country against the main international cruise companies that call Havana.
Perelló also defended the state investment in new luxury and high-capacity hotels, while independent studies estimate that current occupancy is well below 50%.
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