Are you Caribbean dreaming? From high mountain peaks to shimmering reefs, spicy salsa rhythms to deep rolling reggae, pirate hideouts to sugar-sand beaches, the Caribbean is dizzyingly diverse. With almost year-round sunshine and balmy nights, you can understand the region’s appeal. During this lockdown ForwardKeys’ data shows that some nationals are hungrier for a taste of the region than ever!

West Indies or the Caribbean?

With 13 sovereign states and 17 dependant territories, the region has more than 700 islands, islets, cays, and reefs stretching from the Greater Antilles and Lucayan Archipelago in the north of the Caribbean Sea to the lesser Antilles in the south and east.

Its diversity is a large part of the appeal – no two destinations are the same and every holiday will be different, whether in the English, Dutch Spanish, or the French Caribbean. It’s a region you can visit over and over again and always discover something new.

However, at the time of the European discovery of most of the islands of the Caribbean, three major Amerindian indigenous peoples already lived on the islands: Taino, Galibi, and Ciboney.

Then factor in the merchant traders from the Far East, the buccaneers and slave trade from Africa, to see why the region is truly rich in diversity from the locals, to the languages spoken and type of food eaten.

In the end, the name of the region, is a tomato or tomatoes kind of example, depending on where you are from and on your accent.

Caribbean Tourism – Demand & Interest

Tourism to the Caribbean grew by 4.4% in 2019 – which was almost perfectly in step with tourism growth worldwide.

An analysis of the most important origin markets showed that the increase in visitors was driven by North America, with travel from the USA (which accounts for 53% of visitors) up by 6.5%, and travel from Canada up by 12.2%.

The top Caribbean destination by far was the Dominican Republic, with a 29% share of visitors, followed by Jamaica, with 12%, Cuba with 11%, and the Bahamas with 7%.

A series of deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic led to a temporary setback in bookings from the USA; however, as Americans were unwilling to give up their holiday in paradise, other destinations, such as Jamaica and the Bahamas benefited.

Puerto Rico saw strong growth, up 26.4%, but this is better seen as a recovery after Hurricane Maria devastated the destination in September 2017.

The face of the Caribbean during Covid19

The way the Caribbean nations united to combat the Coronavirus swiftly is to be admired. Not only were the numbers of those infected low but everything was done to ensure it did not spread. Whether it was the way it was handled, the loyalty of past visitors, or the need to visit “home”, the desire to fly to the Caribbean has not been squelched by the Covid-19 pandemic.

When examining flight searches carried out in April in the top source markets for the Caribbean: USA, Germany, UK, and Italy, all pointed to the same thing – an interest to visit the Caribbean in December 2020.

Furthermore, these flight searches, in the case of the UK are also converting to bookings being made in April for December. These daydreams are converting into real actions!

United Kingdom outbound flight searcdh to the Caribbean 

What next for the Caribbean?

Hoteliers, tour operators, car hire companies, and DMOs should use this time to prepare for these future travellers. According to our latest data, the lead booking times to the Caribbean are really varied, ranging from 85 days to 180 days made in advance.

Average lead time for long haul departures to the Caribbean worldwide

As you can see bookings made from the Americas tend to be made sooner, especially from Canada. While from Europe, Spaniards tend to make their bookings quicker than a UK citizen, who require close to 6 months of advance planning.

In terms of flight searches from these key source markets, the graph below shows you the top 5 destinations per source market. It appears withstanding of past colonial ties, time of year, or VFR appeal, this December, the Dominican Republic should prepare for a busy Winter season.

top 5 caribbean destinations searched the most in April

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chapter UK & Europe have been running an inspirational #CaribbeanDreaming campaign since April 2020 to keep the hope of visiting real and offer a monthly holiday prize to the Caribbean. Enter before June 1 via their website: www.caribbean.co.uk


Header picture source: Caribbean Tourism Organization UK – The Liming hotel, Bequia.