After a devastating pandemic-inspired blow, the tourist-dependent Caribbean is back in business. Tourists have flocked to the picture-perfect part of the world since spring, despite the warmer months typically being a slower time in the Caribbean. But, if we’ve learned anything from the relentless pandemic, it’s that nothing is “typical” anymore (not that anyone needs the reminder).
As vaccines rolled out and the lockdown-inspired stir-craziness became all too real, travellers turned to the Caribbean for a (presumably much needed) escape in recent months. Data collected reveals a boom in visitor arrivals and bookings to the region.
For example, Aruba welcomed 75,727 stayover visitors from the U.S. in June, according to the Aruba Tourism Authority. That’s a massive 98 per cent more visitors than the county saw in June 2019.
Over in the Dominican Republic, tourist arrivals increased to 462, 536 in June from 390,948 in May, resulting in the country’s hotel’s seeing a 70 per cent occupancy range, according to figures from the Central Bank. In the first five months of the year, Dominican Republic welcomed 1.4 million visitors.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has experienced the highest hotel demand since before Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the highest demand ever in June, according to findings from Discover Puerto Rico.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re seeing a pent-up demand for travel, particularly holiday and winter travel, and an increasing demand for the frictionless vacation experiences that an all-inclusive vacation provides,” says Marissa Maheu-Mendes, Public Relations and Promotions Supervisor at Canadian vacation company Sunwing Travel Group.
As of July 30th, Sunwing has resumed initial flight service from Toronto and Montreal, two of their busiest gateways, to Cancun and Punta Cana, with Montego Bay to follow soon. Sunwing will also operate additional gateways and destinations for the fall and winter season, with departures from numerous other Canadian cities, says Maheu-Mendes.
Tellingly, Air Canada announced it would add more flights to Punta Cana and Cancun, the Caribbean’s most popular destinations. And – judging from the current flurry of travel activity in the Caribbean – the airline won’t be met with a shortage of demand.
“After the year we’ve been through (and all the uncertainty ahead), I think travellers are just trying to squeeze in a vacation as soon as they’re vaccinated and meet entry requirements,” says Solmaz K, the owner of well-known Canadian travel blog The Curious Creature. “The Caribbean is familiar to many and offers what most of us crave: relaxing beaches, lush landscapes and outdoor dining. The short/direct flights are also appreciated given airline masking requirements!”
A recent Sunwing survey conducted among member of the Angus Reid Forum uncovered that 58 per cent of Canadians intend on returning to travel within the next 12 months, with 68 per cent of those respondents indicating they are interested in an all-inclusive vacation.
Sunwing research also shows that holiday departures are becoming increasingly popular, with 57 per cent of Canadians (who have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) indicating they would be interested in travelling this upcoming holiday season. The company reports already seeing some of the most popular resorts in its sun destinations quickly sell out on key holiday and winter dates – something Maheu-Mendes says is rare to see so early in the booking cycle.
Is it Here to Stay?
Though the return of travel to the Caribbean is undoubtedly a positive sign, the aforementioned uncertainty that looms is impossible to ignore (not that anyone needs that reminder either).
With the highly contagious Delta variant now dominating headlines and the virus numbers climbing, we can only hope that things continue in the right direction – on the virus front and the travel front.