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Trinidad and Tobago experienced a 3.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals for 2019, but a decline of 27.2 per cent in cruise ship arrivals.

According to the latest report released by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) yesterday, 388,576 stop-over tourists visited T&T between January and December last year. That was a 3.5 per cent increase over 2018.

Some 91,423 visitors arrived in T&T on cruise ships last year, which represented a decline of more than a quarter from 2018. T&T experienced a eight per cent increase in tourist arrivals from the United States, which totalled 178,026 last year.

Arrivals from Canada in 2019 amounted to 49,492, which represented an increase of 5.2 per cent over 2018. Arrivals from Europe grew by 1.4 per cent to 54,489 last year. Tourists from other markets declined by three per cent to 106,569 in 2019. In its latest report, the CTO said following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Caribbean tourism rebounded to post record stay-over and cruise ship arrivals in 2019.

Stay-over arrivals for the region grew by 4.4 per cent to reach 31.5 million, outpacing the international rate of growth of 3.8 per cent reported by the World Tourism Organisation. At the same time, cruise visits increased by 3.4 per cent to 30.2 million, representing the seventh consecutive year of growth.

Neil Walters, the acting secretary-general of the CTO, in delivering the report live on social media, said the destinations most impacted by the hurricanes saw some of the highest rates of growth in 2019.

For tourists, after two years of decline, the US was the best performing market in 2019, registering an increase of ten per cent to reach a record 15.5 million visitors.However, he said Canada was sluggish in 2019 at 0.4 per cent, equivalent to 3.4 million tourist visits.

Walters revealed that intra-Caribbean travel increased by 7.4 per cent to reach two million, while the South American market declined by 10.4 per cent to 1.5 million.

“As we navigate 2020, concerns remain over the global economic, environmental, political and social uncertainty, including the US presidential election, the impact of climate change and extreme weather events and health threats/issues, especially the coronavirus, and how these could influence our performance.

“There are other factors such as less-than-adequate intra-regional air access and high levels of taxation which may hinder travel,” he said.

Walters added that the destinations are making improvements to their infrastructure and there’s renewed investment regionally in tourism facilities for both air and sea travellers.

Also speaking was CTO chairman and St Lucia’s Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee who said he anticipates the re-structuring of the organisation to be completed this year, with a new Secretary General in office soon.

He said the idea is to have a “very lean, efficient organisation” and that the CTO would become also a ‘repository for research in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“There will be an investment component as part of this annual marketing initiative in New York, there will also be a strong consumer touch point,” he said, adding that there are also plans to alleviate the level of media attention.

Responding to T&T’s 27.2 per cent decline in cruise ship tourist arrivals, Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell told the Express that in 2017 and 2018 the country experienced an increase in cruise ship arrivals due to the destination ports in the Caribbean being damaged by the hurricanes.

“Now that the different ports are repaired, cruise lines can now dock, hence why T&T will experience a decline in the arrivals.” Mitchell continued: “We face a challenge, because of our geography and some cruise ships said it is not economical to come into our shores, due to how we are positioned.”

He said despite the challenge, the Tourism ministry is in constant talks with the cruise ship executives to do more and attract more cruise lines to Trinidad and Tobago.

With regards to the 3.5 per cent increase in tourist arrivals Mitchell said he expects another increase this year, as a result of several conferences and events which are expected to be held in T&T this year.

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