Caribbean Dominates 2023 Destination Rankings

Without a doubt, the Caribbean is the global destination of choice in 2023, continuing its dominance in the destination rankings since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 according to ForwardKeys.

The rankings look at air tickets issued up to Sept. 26, which capture scheduled flight arrivals to that date, and bookings up to the end of the year. The benchmark is 2019, the last normal year of international travel before the industry was decimated by the pandemic. Globally, air traffic in 2023 is set to finish 25% behind 2019’s peak.

Looking at the world’s most visited countries, seven of the top ten have a Caribbean coastline. The Dominican Republic heads the list, with 14% more visitors set to arrive by air in 2023 than in 2019. It is followed by Costa Rica and Aruba, both 11% ahead; Jamaica and Puerto Rico, both 9% ahead; Colombia and Mexico, both 5% ahead; The Bahamas and Greece, both 3% ahead and Saudi Arabia, flat, receiving the same number of flight arrivals as in 2019.

According to ForwardKeys, the Caribbean’s success has been driven by the strong appeal of beach holidays, proximity to the world’s strongest outbound travel market, the US, and economic dependence of many Caribbean countries on tourism, which caused them to introduce a variety of measures to keep attracting short-haul and long-haul visitors during the pandemic and afterwards.

Colombia’s tourism growth is mainly due to a boost in airline seat capacity, up 31% on 2019. Saudia Arabia’s strong showing has been fuelled by government policy to invest $800 billion in making the country a world class tourism destination, as well as efforts to increase air connectivity and removal of the attendance cap on the Haj pilgrimage.

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, observed: “In 2023, many destinations and travel businesses remained focused on recovery post-COVID-19. The speed of that recovery has varied by region, but by the end of 2024, it will be complete, even for those countries that lifted travel restrictions most recently.”

As a result, Ponti said: “This brings destinations back to the issues they were dealing with pre-pandemic. Where do they want to go with tourism? What type of tourism? For what purpose? But while the questions persist, the context has changed, shaped by geopolitical events, technological advances and rising concerns about sustainability.”

And he concluded: “Growth at all costs¨ is no longer viable. Destinations and travel businesses need to focus on new models of tourism which are socially, economically and environmentally responsible. In this context, access to accurate, timely and granular travel data is invaluable to success.”

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