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Report: More visitors to Caribbean, and they're spending more money

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Caribbean tourists are spending more money during their visits to the region, with the jump in expenditures surpassing the rise in arrivals for the first time in three years, according to new statistics.

The U.S. remains the Caribbean's core market, while there was a drop in visitors from the United Kingdom and Europe and nearly zero growth in Canadian travellers, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Johnson JohnRose, spokesman for the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Visitors spent more than $28 billion last year, a more than 2 per cent increase from 2012, CTO chairwoman Beverly Nicholson-Doty announced Monday. The hotel sector also reported a more than 7 per cent rise in room revenues.

However, the region saw only a 1.8 per cent increase in arrivals last year, compared to a 5 per cent increase in 2012. Overall, more than 25 million people visited the Caribbean in 2013, in part thanks to a surge in tourists from new markets, Nicholson-Doty said.

"While the main source markets are sputtering, tourists from South America are flocking to the region in large numbers," she said.

Some 1.5 million tourists from South America visited the Caribbean last year, an increase of 13 per cent from the previous year and of 70 per cent compared with 2009, with many drawn to the Dutch Caribbean.

Brazilians in particular have been exploring the Caribbean, but only a portion of it, said Richard Doumeng, president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.

"Statistically, it looks very encouraging, but if you really look at it, almost all of that growth is going to the Dominican Republic and Cuba in general," he said in a phone interview.

Cruises also remained popular, with last year's summer months considered the best ever for the Caribbean, Nicholson-Doty said. Twice as many destinations saw an increase in activity last year compared with 2013, with the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao seeing the biggest jump in cruise ship passengers for the region last year. Some eastern Caribbean islands, however, struggled to attract cruise ship passengers, including Grenada, which saw a 22 per cent drop.

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