The Caribbean is reporting “a lot more consumer confidence” following the inclusion of some destinations on the UK government’s ‘safe’ travel list.
Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Antigua top the list of searches for Caribbean holidays, according to Carol Hay, chief executive of McKenzie Gayle, which represents the UK chapter of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Hay said: “People have started searching for the Caribbean. They have started to see a peak in bookings from July, and a lot more consumer confidence.”
Travel to the Caribbean dropped by nearly 60% in the first six months of the year, according to data from flight analyst Forward Keys based on flights from January 1 to June 21.
Arrivals had been projected to grow by 1-2% in 2020, on the back of a 4.4% rise year-on-year in 2019 to a total of 31.5 million international visitors and a further 30.2 million cruise passengers visiting the Caribbean region.
However, the UK market had been down in 2019 by around 5%, to 1.3 million visitors, which Hay attributed to the uncertainty around Brexit.
“We did enter this year expecting some growth but of course all that has changed,” added Hay.
“We were really happy to hear last week when the UK government announced 19 of our Caribbean destinations were included in that list, so that meant we could ramp up our plans.
But, she said: “There’s still a lot of confusion as to what’s happening.”
Among the list of destinations that will not require visitors to quarantine on return are: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, St Barths, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Cayman Islands, Martinique, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Turks and Caicos Islands were also included on the Foreign Office’s list of countries exempt from the advice against all but essential travel.
Among the flights returning to the Caribbean this summer are British Airways from Gatwick to Barbados starting July 18, with Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Antigua to follow. Virgin Atlantic has announced it will restart flights from its Heathrow base to Barbados on August 1, followed by Antigua, Montego Bay and (via Antigua) Grenada and Tobago from October.
Hay emphasised the importance of the travel trade in restoring confidence in the Caribbean, with a virtual agent roadshow planned for September 15 and 16 as part of its ‘Caribbean month’, plus a travel advisory site managed by the CHTA listing entry requirements for Caribbean countries.
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