The Caribbean faces a “challenging” first three months of the year due to a bookings slump, according to new analysis.

Bookings for the first quarter – usually a peak travel time for the region – are currently 3.6% behind the equivalent time last year with those from the UK down by almost 11%.

The latest data from ForwardKeys, which analyses more than 17 million flight bookings a day, shows that bookings from the dominant US source market are 7.2% down.

However, bookings from France and Canada are currently 1.9% and 8.9% ahead respectively, while Argentina is 5.8% down.

These are ranked as the five most important source markets for the Caribbean.

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Visiting the Bahamas in the wake of hurricane Dorian

The slump follows devastation wreaked by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and a series of initially suspicious deaths of US tourists in the Dominican Republic last year.

Overall tourism to the Caribbean grew by 4.4% in 2019 despite a 4.7% fall from the UK to the Bahamas during 2019.

ForwardKeys said: “Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2020, the outlook is challenging, as bookings for the period are currently 3.6% behind where they were at the equivalent moment last year.”

ForwardKeys insights vice president Olivier Ponti added: “Whilst the current forward booking situation is currently not where one would want it to be, there are plenty of opportunities for the destination to grow.

“Most significantly, an analysis of flight searches shows that there is strong interest in the Caribbean from source markets which have very limited direct connectivity.

“For example, large numbers of people look for flights to Nassau from Paris, Milan, Warsaw, Rome and Zurich.

“This suggests that if new direct flights were established, many more visitors would come.

“Given how wonderful the Caribbean is as a destination and how much tourism is valued here, I am crossing my fingers that this will happen.”

Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association chief executive and director general Frank Comito said: “As a regional destination, one of the most useful things we can do is encourage collaboration between countries to build resilience to market shocks.

“Of course, the better we understand the market, the better placed we are to do that.

“Having access to the kind of high quality data we shared today will definitely help improve market understanding, planning and decision making.”