Americas – mixed fortunes in 2019

The Americas showed a 2% increase in inbound tourism in 2019 to reach 220 million international arrivals, according to the UNWTO.

Many smaller island destinations in the Caribbean saw double-digit growth in 2019. Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Marteen all recorded double-digit increases in both arrivals and receipts. Among the larger island destinations, Puerto Rico rebounded strongly through August, while Bahamas continued to grow at double-digit despite the severe flooding which occurred in September. Jamaica enjoyed continued solid growth benefitting from increased US visitor numbers, while tourism to Cuba was affected by travel restrictions from the United States and the collapse of Thomas Cook. The Dominican Republic, the sub-region’s most visited destination, recorded a slight decline in international arrivals.

North America (+3%) showed mixed results, with strong growth in Mexico and Canada but weaker results in the United States, the largest destination in the Americas. Mexico recorded continued robust results both in arrivals and receipts through November, with increased tourist flows from Canada and other countries from the region. After a slow start of the year, Canada achieved strong results through October, thanks to a favourable currency and a surge in arrivals from North American and European markets, though less visitors from China amid diplomatic tensions.

Inbound data for the United States available through October shows a slight decline overall. Arrivals from its main source markets, Canada and Mexico, went down. Growth in arrivals from top overseas markets the United Kingdom and Japan continued to offset declines from several key markets such as China and the Republic of Korea. A strong US dollar is making the destination less affordable for some markets and visa issuance has slowed travel from Asia and Latin America, according to the UNWTO Panel of Experts.

Central America achieved a 2% increase in arrivals, recovering from the 2019 drop, with uneven results across destinations. Costa Rica, the sub-region’s most visited destination, posted solid results through November, while Belize, Honduras and El Salvador grew above average. Nicaragua showed a double-digit rebound in the second and third quarters, following a sharp drop in arrivals in the first quarter amid political tensions. Guatemala and Panama posted more modest results.

International arrivals to South America were down 3% in 2019, with mixed performance throughout the year. After a decline in the first quarter of 2019, the sub-region picked up in the second quarter but international arrivals fell again through the remainder of the year. Several destinations recorded a strong decline in tourist arrivals from Argentina as a result of the economic crisis and the weakening of the Argentinian peso.

Source: UNWTO World Tourism Barometer – January 2020

Photo: Sibinacocha Lake, Peru – © Gvillemin.