Cuba could be the Dominican Republic's newest competition - and signs Trinidad-Tobago tourism deal

Posted: 14-Apr-15 16:04

The Dominican Republic has long been a major Caribbean destination for Americans - and now Cuba is officially throwing off its shroud of mystery and welcoming US visitors. Now the Dominican Republic is cautiously eyeing Cuba's development, which looks set to be boosted by a recent agreement signed with Trinidad-Tobago.

Cuba could be the Dominican Republic's newest competition - and signs Trinidad-Tobago tourism deal

While the Dominican Republic has long been a major Caribbean destination for Americans, Cuba is just officially throwing off its shroud of mystery. The recent moves to normalise relations between Cuba and America has triggered tens of thousands of web searches almost immediately, followed by a swift response from tour operators and hotel chains to meet the growing demand.

According to figures from booking sites CheapAir and CheapFlights, Cuba is now in the top five for most-searched Caribbean destinations, with Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica ahead. The fact that "tourism" is not an official reason Americans can visit Cuba hasn't mattered at all – now more than ever there's no shortage of chartered flights and cruise tour offerings.

Meanwhile in the Dom Rep, the local operators and industry watches and waits for the impact this will have on them, and knows that Cuba has more than just newness in its arsenal of charms. Indeed, Simon Suarez, president of the Dominican Hotel and Restaurant Association, said:

"We can already see that there will be an effect on the Dominican Republic because of the demand by Americans who want to go to Cuba. We run head-to-head in the sun and sand departments with Cuba... But the Cuban charm that is something we have to compete with."

That said, DR's infrastructure for its American guests is no competition – just yet. Although Cuba has been popular with European, Canadian and Latin American tourists for decades, it will take a long time to catch up in terms of modern amenities and luxuries for the American market. For instance, access to the internet is still highly restricted and expensive to the privileged few; it's still not yet possible for US travellers to use their credit cards on the island. Suarez added:

"The Dominican Republic exceeds Cuba's performance in almost every aspect of the market."

It was a smart move, then, for Cuba to look within the Caribbean for a boost to its tourism industry. The respective governments of Cuba and Trinidad-Tobago signed a bilateral cooperation agreement in the tourism sector at the end of March.

According to Cuba's tourism ministry, the agreement aims to "promote and increase the flow of travellers and to boost the Caribbean multi-destination", through "the training of personnel, investment promotion, the exchange of expertise and scientific experience, environmental evaluations and the development of new tourist products".


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