Despite Hurricanes, the Caribbean Welcomed a Record 30 Million Visitors Last Year

Caribbean beach
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Despite suffering two devastating hurricanes, the Caribbean welcomed a record 30 million visitors in 2017.

The islands saw $37 billion in total visitor spending for 2017, up three percent from 2016, according to the report from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

“In short, despite the challenges in 2017, more visitors arrived in the Caribbean and they spent more,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO, according to Travel Agent Central. “Is that enough? Is our work now done? Not by a long way. The Caribbean, with our highly completive tourism products, has quite some distance to go.”

The numbers varied greatly across the islands, however. St. Lucia saw a double-digit increase in visitors, while other islands' arrivals were down by 20 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma devastated the region in the fall of 2017, leaving dozens dead and destroying buildings and infrastructure across the islands.

The economic recovery has varied greatly island to island, with geography and the path of the two storms serving as a strong determining factor. The Bahamas, for instance, survived relatively unscathed and was welcoming visitors back to its shores within weeks of the hurricanes. Puerto Rico saw some of the worst destruction, and some 400,000 people are still without power months after the hurricane.

Many industry experts throughout the Caribbean have called for visitors to return to the region, citing the importance of the tourist dollar in rebuilding.

“One of the best things you can do is to come to this destination,” Ramon Andrews, Director of the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, told T+L in October. “It’s definitely going to help with the rebuilding efforts.”

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