Overall tourist arrivals to the Turks and Caicos Islands grew by 41% in the first quarter of this year, with robust growth recorded across all major source markets. January, February and March saw a combined total of 358,188 visitor arrivals to the destination, accounting for 104,437 more visitor arrivals than in the corresponding period in 2013. The combined number represents 105,506 stop-over visitors and 252,682 visitors arriving by cruise ship.
In a very strong start to the year, stop-over arrivals to the Turks and Caicos surged by 30% compared to the same period in 2013. The United States was the leading market generator of all stop-over arrivals to the Turks and Caicos with a sum total of 82,739 stop-over arrivals during the first quarter of 2014, a 35% increase compared to the same period in 2013. The destination’s second largest source market, Canada, indicated a slight rebound with a total of 14,830 stop-over arrivals during the first quarter of 2014, an increase of 13% compared to the same period in the previous year.
Stop-over arrivals from the European markets also signified first quarter growth, with arrivals from the United Kingdom and France increasing by 17% and 86% respectively. Continuing on its upward trend, the Turks and Caicos more than doubled its stop-over arrivals from Italy in the first quarter of 2014 when compared to the same period last year. Collectively the European market recorded 1,889 stop-over arrivals to the destination in the first quarter of 2014. A breakdown in stay-over arrivals from the European region reveals 873 visitors from the United Kingdom; 193 visitors from France; 394 visitors from Italy; 69 visitors from Germany and 360 visitors from other European nations.
The destination’s newest source market, Brazil, recorded 515 stop-over arrivals, an impressive growth rate of 55% at the end of first quarter of 2014. Increases in visitors from the Eastern Caribbean have also been a noted trend. Stop-over arrivals from the Caribbean region in the first quarter of 2014 increased 11% accounting for an additional 4,526 tourists. 1,007 stop-over arrivals visited the Turks and Caicos from the rest of the world, including countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
The Premier and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dr. the Hon. Rufus W. Ewing said these numbers reflect the strength and authenticity of the Turks and Caicos brand in international markets. “The Turks and Caicos brand has been a magnet to our guests who, upon visiting the country once, are compelled to come time and time again. These numbers are not only impressive but demonstrative that this jewel of ours is no longer a secret, and in fact, is one of the most sought after destinations in the region, and indeed the world.” Premier Ewing said that the country’s economy has already begun the climb towards recovery, and recognized the significance of the contribution that these travelers make. “Tourism has always been the bread basket of our economy and the efforts of both my Government and elected Governments of the past have ensured that the industry runs like a well-oiled machine. However, at the same time, we must recognize that the continued success of the industry, well into the future, remains dependent on the level of service that we provide each and every one of our visitors to the islands. Our hospitality must remain reflective of our high-end, luxury brand and must begin from the moment the guest engages the travel agent to the moment they return to their home. We must ensure that we, immigration and customs officials, taxi drivers and residents throughout the visit, continue to ensure the experience of our guests promote the values of safety, security and service.”
“These are wonderful results for the destination, the country, the tourism industry and the economy,” noted Director of Tourism, Ralph L. Higgs. “It is a most encouraging sign that stop-over arrivals growth came from all regions in the first quarter of the year. We are thrilled to see our overall arrival numbers for the first quarter of 2014 up 41%, and we are optimistic that these numbers will continue to climb through the remainder of the year.” Higgs continues, “The first quarter stop-over arrivals from Brazil alone nearly doubles the total visitors welcomed from that market at the end of 2013. With our recent relationship with CVC, and strengthen efforts with other tour operators in Brazil, we expect to see exceptional growth from this region in 2014.”
During the first quarter of 2014, the Grand Turk Cruise Center welcomed a total of 252,682 cruise passengers, a 46% increase over the same period in 2013 when the destination welcomed 172,888 cruise passengers. The months of January and February saw 95,517 and 72,862 cruise passenger arrivals respectively, recording increases in cruise passenger arrivals of 23% and 9% respectively when compared to the previous year. Moreover, the month of March welcomed 84,303 cruise passengers, a 187% increase over the same period in 2013 which saw a three week closure of the port.
“We are impressed by these increases and look forward to another tremendous year for the cruise sector. If all factors prove well and remains equal, we expect the cruise sector to welcome 1 million visitors to the destination alone this year,” said Higgs.
The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA) also confirms that unaudited occupancy figures amongst its members also show average increases of 30% for the first quarter of 2014. Stacy Cox, Executive Director of TCHTA stated that these are very encouraging numbers and pledged her Association’s continued support to the Turks and Caicos Government and the Tourist Board in the efforts to grow tourism in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
A prolonged and blistering winter season for our North American visitors is also to be thanked for the increases experienced during the first quarter. If both land-based and cruise arrivals maintain its momentum the Turks and Caicos could possibly see its best year yet.
Moving forward the Tourist Board will continue to increase its presence within the market place, embarking on a series of travel and trade shows, sponsor and promotional events in the US, Canada, Europe and Brazil, and continue working with wholesalers and hotel partners to sell the destination.