Although the cruise industry plays an important role in many Caribbean economies, visitors that arrive by air are far more valuable to these islands built around hotel stays and excursions.

More than double the number of travelers arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands by cruise (1.9 million) than by air (800,000), according to statistics shared by Visit U.S. Virgin Islands.

However, even with lodging taken out of the equation, travelers in the U.S. Virgin Islands that arrive via air spend close to $100 more per person per day than those that arrive via ship.

The average cruise visitor spends between $138 and $158 per day while the average visitor arriving via air spends between $200 to $250 per day.

“While we get more visitors from cruise and it is an extremely important part of our overall mix, the truth is that land visitors spend almost three times as much per day as a cruise passengers, says says U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson Doty.

“It includes lodging and transportation and they’re there for longer so they participate in more excursions.”

Non-cruise visitors also do significantly more for the local economic in terms of job growth and economic impact.

“Overnight visitors are important for us in terms of an economic driver as it correlates back to staffing at hotels. They really have additional value for the territory, especially since 68 percent of every dollar is generated through tourism,” says Doty.

Similar trends can be found on other Caribbean islands where tourism, and the cruise sector in particular, plays an important economic role.

In Bermuda, cruise arrivals accounted for 61 percent of visitors in 2014, however, their spend is strikingly lower than that of air arrivals. Cruise visitors spend an average $153 per visit while visitors arriving via air spend an average $1,249 per visit.

The dramatic difference is caused by lodging, which as Doty pointed out plays an important role in job growth.

In Puerto Rico, visitors arriving via air again spent much more than visitors via cruise. The island welcomed nearly 1.4 million cruise passengers in 2014 who spent an average $155 per day. Significantly more visitors, more than 8 million, arrived via air and those that stayed in hotels spent $298 on average per day.

It is interesting to note that visitors to Puerto Rico who stayed in relatives’ homes or vacation rentals spent less than cruise visitors and hotel guests at an average $142 per day.

Find average per visit and per day spend for cruise and air arrivals in three tourism economies:

CountryCruise ArrivalsAir ArrivalsCruise Spend Per PersonAir Spend Per Person
U.S. Virgin Islands1,900,000800,000$138-$158 per day$200-$250 per day w/o lodging
Puerto Rico1,356,8228,600,413155.62 per day$298.15 per day w/ lodging
Bermuda355,880224,329$153 per visit$1249 per visit w/ lodging
Photo Credit: Mariner of the Seas and Carnival Triumph in port at St. Thomas Rennett Stowe / Flickr