Tourism to the Caribbean is projected to grow in 2019 as infrastructure on islands ravaged by hurricanes is reinstated.

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation is forecasting 6-7% growth this year, continuing an upward trend which began last September.

But acting director of research Ryan Skeete cautioned over possible “significant headwinds to navigate”.

These he identified as including the outcome of the Brexit negotiations in the UK, the on-going trade war between the US and China and potential extreme weather events in the destinations and marketplaces.

The Caribbean saw total tourist arrivals of 29.9 million in 2018.

Travellers from Europe grew by a modest 1.3% last year, with UK arrivals remaining flat at an estimated 1.3 million.

The US, the region’s leading source market, was down 6.3% to 13.9 million. This was mainly attributed to steep declines in arrivals to popular destinations impacted by hurricanes in 2017, such as Puerto Rico, which fell by 45.6%, and St Maarten, down 79%.

However, the CTO reported a 28% rise in arrivals from the US in the fourth quarter, reflecting a strong turnaround in the period.

This contributed to overall growth of 9.8% between September and December, giving a stronger-than-projected performance and a significant rebound from the previous eight months of decline, according to Skeete.

He said: “We are projecting that tourist arrivals will increase by between six and seven per cent in 2019, as the damaged infrastructure in the hurricane-impacted destinations returns to capacity.

“Similarly, cruise arrivals should expand by a further four to five per cent.”

The outlook for Caribbean tourism in 2019 was cautiously optimistic with global demand for international travel expected to remain strong, underpinned by healthy economic activity, and with improved air connectivity helping to boost arrivals, he added.

“Even the destinations that were severely impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, despite registering overall double-digit declines last year, experienced a significant turnaround during the last four months, registering triple-digit increases during this period,” Skeete added.

“With a strong performance during the last four months of 2018, including a robust showing by countries impacted by the 2017 hurricanes, the evidence suggests that Caribbean tourism is on the upswing,” Skeete declared.