At a Caribbean Week New York news conference, the CTO chairman and Barbados tourism minister, Richard Sealy, reported that the Caribbean “bolted out of the gates” in 2015 with a six per cent rise in tourist arrivals in the first quarter when compared to the same period last year. There were nearly eight million visits to the region, which recorded the 17th straight quarter of growth. The following are the key points of the chairman’s report:

The Caribbean continues its rapid growth rate from 2014 when arrivals grew by 5.3 per cent to 26.3 million visitors

We’ve bolted out of the gates with a six per cent rise in arrivals over the first quarter of 2014

Arrivals to the Caribbean estimated to be 7.9 million in the first three months

This is the fifth consecutive year in which arrivals grew during the first quarter and the 17th quarter of continuous growth.

The United States market continues to be our most productive. Arrivals from the US increased  by 5.6 per cent.

The Canadian market grew an equally impressive  5.4 per cent with Cuba and Dominican Republic among the destinations recording higher levels of arrivals

In the accommodation sector, all leading hotel performance indicators were positive.

There was a modest increase of 1.3 per cent in the number room available in the first quarter, the largest increase for this quarter in the last seven years

Historical first quarters highs were also recorded for Room Occupancy (77.8%), Average Daily Rate (US$239.84) and Revenue per Available Room (US188.25)

In cruise, passenger arrivals slowed in the first quarter with the Caribbean registering a 3.4 per cent rise, compared to a 4.3 per cent growth in 2014 over 2013

An estimated 8.6 million cruise passengers visited the region in the first quarter.

The best performing destinations were Martinique (34.2%), Puerto Rico (26.2%), Antigua & Barbuda (18.6%) and Jamaica (15.9%).

The outlook for the remainder of the year is positive

Growth is expected to be moderate and uneven among member countries

However, overall tourist arrivals are now anticipated to rise at least six per cent over 2014

In the cruise sector, the momentum gained in the first quarter could be reduced as cruise ships are repositioned away from the region.

In addition, the chairman touched on Cuba, declaring that Cuba is not a problem for the Caribbean Tourism Organization “…if any of our members can attract people to the region, it's good for the region”.