The impact of COVID-19 continued to be felt in the tourism industry in 2021. Stayover arrivals totaled 14,888 stayover arrivals, a 31.5% decline over 2020. This performance also reflects an 83% decline over the corresponding pre-COVID period in 2019. However, signs of recovery were evident from April onwards, with each month exceeding arrivals over corresponding periods in 2020. Total visitor arrivals for the 9-month period (April to December) exceeded the corresponding period in 2020 by 288% despite the emergence of the second wave of the pandemic, which resulted in two consecutive months of decline in August and September. Arrivals in Q4 (6,257) accounted for 42% of 2021 stayover arrivals compared to 2020 when Q4 accounted for only 10% of arrivals. The highest number of arrivals for 2021 was recorded in December (3,217), and this performance is also reflective of the best monthly arrival performance since the advent of the pandemic in March 2020.
Dominica received its first cruise call since the advent of the pandemic in July 2021, ending fifteen (15) months of inactivity. Since then, there has been a month-on-month increase in cruise arrivals. Cruise activities peaked in December with 32,328 arrivals, representing 63% of the 50,829 cruise visitor arrivals for 2021. The number of cruise calls (77) received in 2021 fell 18% below 2020. However, cruise visitors declined by 57%, which is partly due to the decline in load factor of the cruise lines, which mostly operated at about 50% capacity to facilitate the safety of passengers during the pandemic.
The 2021 performance for both stayover and cruise arrivals amidst the pandemic is encouraging and has set the pace for a promising outlook for 2022. The lifting of load limits for ferry and cruise passengers per trip, as well as the commencement of daily flights from the US mainland into Dominica in April 2021, could create an avenue for a larger influx of visitors to the island. The recently concluded destination branding is expected to strengthen the island’s identity and attract more visitors. The Year of Health and Wellness (YOHW) initiatives will raise awareness and increase visitor numbers. In addition, an increase in the global vaccination footprint, as well as the easing of travel restrictions and protocols, should bring world travel closer to normalcy, thereby increasing travel to the island.