Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean - statistics & facts
The unstable economic and political situation in many Latin American and Caribbean countries has impeded the expansion of the travel and tourism sector in the region. On the contrary, the region's popularity as an attractive destination for travelers has grown since throughout the past decade. Between 2010 and 2019, the region experienced an increase of roughly 60 percent in international tourist arrivals, though the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused a strong reverse in the trend. In any case, nonetheless, the United States is the main source of tourism in the region. In 2021, nearly 40 million U.S. citizens traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mexico: the favorite destination
Mexico is the main thriving force for the Latin American tourism sector. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico was by far the leading country for international tourism in the region, registering more than the combined total of the other countries on the list. Consequently, the North American country was the main contributor to the Latin American inbound travel spending that year. In total, foreign visitors in Mexico spent around 11.5 billion U.S. dollars – an almost four-fold difference from Brazil: the leading travel market in South America.
South America: a budget destination
While Mexico attracts the highest number of international visitors in the entire Latin American region, South America has become increasingly attractive for budget travelers. In the past Travel and Tourism Development Report, countries in the subregion ranked high according to the tourism price competitiveness index. And in 2022, seven out of the ten most affordable cities for backpacking in Latin America were located in South America, with the Ecuadorean capital of Quito at the top of the list.
Caribbean: the choice for cruise tourism
In the continent, the Caribbean dominates the tourism sector in terms of share of gross domestic product (GPD). The subregion – whose land area is smaller than those of Michigan, Romania, or Laos – is home to economies heavily reliant on tourism. Specifically, the region leads the cruise industry. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean had the largest share of global cruise deployment, accounting for nearly one-third of the market worldwide.
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Ana M. López
Research expert covering travel, tourism and hospitality