|by Sean O'Neill||Caribbean, Hotels||5|
The Hotels Price Index has been tracking rates worldwide since 2004. It's based on bookings on Hotels.com, which competes with its sister site Expedia.com as the largest online travel agency. In other words, more than 78,000 independent and chains hotels worldwide are covered, making it a pretty comprehensive look at pricing.
There's a surprise in the latest report: The Caribbean hasn't seen the sharp price falls that every other major region in the world has in the past year. Hotel rates in the Caribbean only dropped 2 percent in the first half of this year versus the previous year. (Compare that to a 17 percent drop in the U.S. and Canada during the same period.)
The Caribbean felt more of a dip at the end of 2008, when prices plunged 12 percent year-over-year. But things stabilized earlier this year, partly as many travelers switched from visiting Mexico (which was wrenched by swine flu) to alternatives in the Caribbean. (Rates in top Mexican cities were down up to 24 percent earlier this year.)
Which of the more affordable Caribbean islands had the biggest price drops?
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic an average $215 a night (down 14 percent)
Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic $142 (down 7 percent)
Ocho Rios, Jamaica $167 (down 16 percent)
Palm Beach. Aruba $236 (down 8 percent)
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands $207 (down 8 percent)
St. Johns, Antigua & Barbuda $209 (down 5 percent)