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Friday, November 17 2017 @ 10:30 PM AST

CTO: Caribbean Airlines seat capacity down 9.5%

Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chairman Dionisio D’Aguilar spoke at the World Travel Market in London WTM News Conference, November 6-8, 2017. The following are key takeaways from his speech:

* Caribbean tourism was on the rise before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit

* Caribbean now expects only 1% to 2% growth in tourism in 2017 after growing 5.2% in the first half of the year

* Flights to Caribbean fell in October (hurricanes hit in Sept.) by 6.7%, while seat capacity contracted by 4.1%

* "Among the worst hit destinations, the frequency of flights to Puerto Rico decreased by 25.1 per cent, Dominica by 13.7 per cent, St. Maarten by 12 per cent, the British Virgin Islands by 11.2 per cent, Anguilla by 6.3 per cent and the US Virgin Islands by 5.6 per cent. Seat capacity to all of these destinations was consequently adversely affected with St. Maarten experiencing a near 50 per cent falloff.

Some of these reductions were influenced by Hurricane Harvey, which hit the US mainland, but most were a direct result of Irma and Maria.

It must be noted, however, that Cuba’s capacity grew by 10 per cent despite changes to the schedule. The new services from the US are a major influence on this performance. The largest of the carriers based in the region, Caribbean Airlines and LIAT, both registered declines in capacity, with LIAT falling by 21.3 per cent and Caribbean Airlines by 9.5 per cent. However, overall, air capacity in the region grew by five per cent for the first nine months of 2017 when compared to the same period last year.

As for post-hurricane tourist arrivals, it is still too early to tell, since the October numbers are not yet in. However, with several of the key cruise destinations, including Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and the US Virgin Islands recovering from the impact of the hurricanes, cruise lines made changes to their itineraries to include alternative regional ports which remained open.

These redeployments have benefited countries such as Curacao, which registered a 138.3 per cent rise in cruise passenger arrivals in September, Jamaica (54.1 per cent), the Cayman Islands and Grenada.

You would have noticed that we predict growth in tourist arrivals this year, albeit slower than expected, which could still mean new record performance for the Caribbean despite the storms. This is mainly due to the fact that some 75 per cent of the Caribbean was unscathed by the hurricanes and continued to welcome visitors.

* "Already, virtually all of the affected countries are reporting that they are open again for business, although not at full capacity, with every one of them planning some sort of event either later this year or early next year."

For the full speech, visit: http://www.onecaribbean.org/remarks-c...mber-2017/

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