An analysis by ForwardKeys of booking data and flight searches to the Caribbean comparing this summer season with that of the coming Christmas season – captures that the top destinations remain relatively unchanged with just one dark horse, joining the cool kids of the Caribbean.


The Cool Kids of the Caribbean – Summer results

When examining the top five most booked destinations in the Caribbean over summer, we noticed that the same countries also are faring best in terms of forward-bookings and flight searches too. The lucky five are the US Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.

Sabrina Cambiaso, Director of The Dominican Republic Tourist Board UK Office commented: “The Dominican Republic consistently attracts bookings year-round and is incredibly popular in the summer months. It’s encouraging to see the level of interest and forward bookings. The Government initiatives, including random testing and free Covid-19 medical insurance, mean the destination is in a good place to benefit from any upturn in tourism.”

Indeed, our graph below shows the demand for the Caribbean over the summer from North America, especially once borders were re-opened. Upon announcing the re-opening of its borders, Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda saw tickets booked from the US increase within the 1 week of the announcement. 

A switch in destination marketing for the Caribbean?

With the Caribbean islands not having the safety net of domestic or inter-regional tourism, unlike other regions such as Asia or Europe, the focus needs to be placed on flight corridors and closer relations to regional neighbours.

A useful chart that demonstrates this is below. The on/off travel restrictions in Europe have played havoc with travel bookings and greatly impacted the choices people make when booking.

20200929-CTO-2As you can see the lead times for bookings made in advance have halved across all key source markets to the Caribbean. Have you adjusted your marketing & promotional strategy to match this? Or perhaps you’ve overlooked the importance of some markets like Canada?

Carol Hay, Business Development Director at CTO Chapter, UK and Europe commented: “It’s incredibly useful for tour operators, governments, tourism boards, and other stakeholders to have access to this kind of data.  Marketing strategies must be incredibly versatile in this kind of environment and we all must respond rapidly to changes in markets around the world, and in the destinations we represent. As some avenues close, others open and it’s positive to see the levels of interest in the Caribbean never waver.  We are used to adversity in the region and have the strength and resilience to bounce back.”

The good news is that tickets issued to the Caribbean for future travel, are at its highest since the beginning of the crisis.


The future looks…

When looking at future bookings and flight searches in early 2021, it appears that the island nations that have ties to both North America and Europe will sail on to the sunset a bit better than the others.

In Q4 towards Christmas, we see an increase in bookings, the demand for a tropical Christmas arises particularly for Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

20200929-CTO-4Is this just holidaymakers or perhaps also VFRs (visiting friends & relatives)? “The Diaspora has an obvious reason to be leading the charge in wanting to come back to the Caribbean and there will be significant pent-up demand.  Most people won’t have been back to visit friends and families since before March so they will be booking for Christmas and early 2021, hoping that restrictions allow them to travel,” adds Hay.

Meanwhile, in Q1 of the year 21, Cuba is the regional star across all key source markets. The destination is being searched by all, followed by the Dominican Republic.


However, you can see past historical and cultural ties impacting who is searching for which part of the Caribbean. French>Martinique, Guadeloupe; Dutch>Aruba, Curacao; English>Bahamas, Barbados; Spanish>Cuba, Puerto Rico. Some of these destinations also have created flight bridges allowing safe passage between the two countries.

In sum, the future heavily relies on each nation’s rules of entry, the flight corridors they set up, and catering to a wider mix of source markets beyond the traditional ones. Let’s see how the wind blows for the Windies in 2021!


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