Cuba is 3rd most popular Caribbean destination - but isn't competition, says Jamaica as Cuban and Bahamian tourism minister meet in Havana

Posted: 20-Apr-15 11:28

Cuba's increased profile as a holiday destination has brought optimism and fear, from within the Caribbean region itself. Will Cuba steal visitors from other, smaller destinations, or should it be embraced for the greater good? If other Caribbean nations are anything to go by, embracing Cuba makes perfect business sense.

Cuba is 3rd most popular Caribbean destination - but isn't competition, says Jamaica as Cuban and Bahamian tourism minister meet in Havana

Now that Cuba's profile as a destination is rising and a clutch of hotel awards are on the way, there's been some concern that it'll detract rather than attract tourist dollars to the Caribbean region overall. Not so, said former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson, speaking at at the third CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum (at Montego Bay's Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa).

The CARIFORUM-EU is a group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states that engage in economic dialogue with the European Union. In the wake of Cuba being removed from the United States terrorism list, Patterson said that Caribbean nations had been campaigning for normalised relations between Cuba and the US for decades, recognising that what was good for Cuba benefited the region as a whole.

Patterson said:

"I am going to step out from the pavilion and say this. Instead of people spending their time worrying about how the advent of tourist arrivals in Cuba is going to affect the Caribbean, let's spend our time in seeing how, out of that alliance, the entire region is going to benefit by the creation of multiple destination and multicultural experience."

He added that it was indeed in the greater Caribbean interest - and pure common sense - to bring Cuba in from the cold. With a total population of around 37 million people, it would certainly have some economic clout.

There are plenty of tourists to go round. Recent figures released by Travel Trade Caribbean revealed that Jamaica was the fourth (out of five surveyed) destinations in the Caribbean, with a healthy 1.9 million tourists per year.

Cuba was the third most popular destination in the region, with over 3 million tourists – an increase of more than 5% on last year, and a not-too-shabby 21% overall share. Cuba was topped by Riviera Maya with 3.5 million visitors, nearly a quarter of total visitors to the region, and at the top was the Dominican Republic, with nearly 4.5 million visitors (a sizeable 31% of the total).

Bahamas came in last with almost 10% of total visitors, at around 1.3 million. Its tourism minister Obediah Wilchcome flew into Havana recently to meet with Cuban counterpart Manuel Marrero to discuss opportunities the Bahamas could offer.

Meeting with tourism sector institutions such as Havanatur and enjoying the beautiful and historic sites that Cuba has to offer could be fruitful in the long term. Both sides expressed optimism, perfectly in spirit with Patterson's speech at the CARIFORUM.


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