The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Tourism Highlights 2016 Edition showed The Bahamas vis-a-vis its regional competition for overnight tourists, with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico all pulling more overnight visitors than The Bahamas.
By the numbers, the Dominican Republic had 5.6 million overnight visitors in 2015, who spent $6.1 billion. Puerto Rico (3.5 million, spending $3.8 billion) and Cuba (3.4 million in 2015, spending $2.4 billion in 2014, no 2015 spending data available) were next. They were followed by Jamaica (2.1 million, spending $2.4 billion), The Bahamas (1.5 million, spending $2.4 billion) and Aruba (1.2 million, spending $1.7 billion).
The report was released yesterday and highlighted the continued impressive growth in world tourism. With regard to international (overnight) tourist arrivals, the world saw 1.186 billion overnight visitors in 2015, who spent US$1.260 trillion.
International tourism receipts
The UNWTO calculated that international tourism represents seven percent of worldwide exports. In fact, the organization reported that expenditure by international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services and goods in the destinations reached US$1.260 trillion (euro 1.136 trillion) in 2015.
“In real terms, i.e. taking into account exchange rate fluctuations and inflation, this represents an increase of 4.4 percent over 2014, mirroring the growth in international arrivals… In real terms, receipts grew by eight percent in the Americas, by four percent in both Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East, by three percent in Europe, and by two percent in Africa.
“In macroeconomic terms, expenditure by international visitors counts as exports for the destination country and as imports for the country of residence of the visitor. For many countries inbound tourism is a vital source of foreign currency earnings and an important contributor to the economy, creating much-needed employment and further
opportunities for development.
“In addition to receipts earned in the destinations (the travel item of the balance of payments), international tourism also generated US$211 billion in exports through international passenger transport services rendered to non-residents in 2015. Adding these together, the value of tourism exports amounted to US$ 1.5 trillion, or US$4 billion a day on average,” UNWTO states.
According to the report, international tourism — comprising both earnings in destinations and passenger transport — represents 30 percent of services exports. And the share of tourism in overall exports of goods and services increased from six percent to seven percent in 2015, as international tourism outgrew world merchandise trade for the fourth consecutive year. In this period merchandise trade increased by between two percent to three percent a year according to data reported by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“As a worldwide export category, tourism ranks third after fuels and chemicals, and ahead of food and automotive products.
“In many developing countries, tourism ranks as the first export sector. Tourism is increasingly an essential component of export diversification, both for emerging and advanced economies. In recent years tourism has shown a strong capacity to compensate for weaker export revenues in many commodity and oil exporting countries,” UNWTO reported.
The UNWTO asserted that following the strong results recorded in 2014, international tourist arrivals in the Americas grew by six percent in 2015 to reach 193 million — 16 percent of arrivals worldwide.
International tourism receipts increased by 8 percent in real terms to US$304 billion — 24 percent of receipts worldwide. Many destinations benefited from the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, driving tourism demand from the United States, with the Caribbean and Central America — both up seven percent — leading growth.
In the Caribbean — up seven percent — growth was driven by Cuba, which surged 18 percent; Aruba, Barbados and Haiti, which all grew by double digits, and the single digit growth in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
However, results were weaker for The Bahamas and Jamaica, which grew by three and two percent respectively.