Cuba's growing tourism, a perceived threat for other Caribbean destinations

Posted: 21-Aug-15 10:25

Tourist arrivals to Cuba have been on the rise for the past years and has continued to grow amidst thaw between the US and the island. As Cuba's popularity goes uphill, other destinations in the Caribbean worry about the competition becoming too strong.

Cuba's growing tourism, a perceived threat for other Caribbean destinations

Since Cuban government announced economic reforms in 2013, tourism has significantly grown in the island, a phenomenon that keeps on rising amidst the recent goodwill between Cuba and the US after more than 50 years of hostility and Cold War policies.

Now that certain restrictions have been lifted and that many American airlines and cruise companies have announced various charter trips to the island, the novelty of Cuba travel (as long as it is within the 12 legal categories) is progressievly becoming popular amongst US travellers that have been banned from vsiting the island for many years.

This prospect would be even more promising (10 million American visitors per year are estimated) if all travel bans imposed by the trade embargo were eliminated by US Congress. This advantageous position for Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, could truly make tourist influx descend considerably for other Caribbean destinations.

Steve Johnson, pilot for Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, shared his views on the matter:

"Such a move would be a major boom to the Cuban economy, not least by unleashing a torrent of big-spending Americans on the island. This shift coule prove disastrous for some of the small islands elsewhere in the Caribbean which are heavily dependent on tourism."

At the present time, Cuba is already posing a threat to other nearby holiday destinations, as it is the most visited country in the Caribbean with more than 3 million arrivals per year. According to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), small islands like the Bahamas who rely econimically on the tourism sector could take a big hit.

In the first place, Cuba would siphon off visitors from Florida, where many Cuban Americans reside, a market that has traditionally represented over 20 per cent of Bahamian arrivals. In second place, the opening of Cuba has already made a big impact on the cruise industry and airline companies, as they offer culturally-rich and historical trips that go beyond the traditional sun, sand and sea.

"The likelihood that cruise lines drop some existing ports to accommodate Cuba visits is real, and the proximity of Cuba to the US... can easily impact itineraries to near markets."

Commented a representative of the CHTA to CNN Traveller.

Finally, the on-going normalisation between the US and Cuba, along with the economic reforms that seek foreign capital have already gotten the island considerably large investements, over $800, 000, 000 in hotel-related activities. This way, the Caribbean industry would now be competing not only for American visitors but also for investment dollars.


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