Tourism up in 1st quarter 2014

Tourism officials celebrated the release of the government's First Quarter travel statistics for Turks and Caicos last week, noting that current trends could produce the nation's best year yet for airlift and cruise arrivals.

Cruise arrivals at Grand Turk's Cruise Center continue to drive the largest numbers in the survey, recording a 46 percent comparative growth rate.

But the biggest news in the report was a massive increase in the more lucrative stop-over-arrivals figure, which largely tracks airlift traffic at Providenciales International Airport. The number jumped 30 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013, driving the nation's 41 percent overall increase in arrivals.

Visitors from the United States and Canada continue to dominate the stop-over market, with arrivals originating the U.S. surging by 35 percent. There were large-percentage increases in the smaller national source markets, too, and while they still produce relatively small raw numbers, officials were encouraged by trends from Italy, France and Brazil. Brazil is the TCI's newest target for tourism marketing, and its stop-over traffic increased by 55 percent.

Stacy Cox, executive director for the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, said the government figures fit well with the association's unaudited occupancy data., which recorded 30 percent increases in the quarter.

TCI Premier Rufus W. Ewing, who also serves as the nation's Minister of Tourism, touted the report as further evidence of the coutntry's ongoing recovery. But he also sounded a cautionary note, calling on the workers to "remain reflective of our high-end luxury brand... from the moment guest engages the travel agent to the moment they return to their home."