How The Bahamas plans to make the most of the US-Cuba thaw

Posted: 31-Dec-15 10:19

Gearing up to what will mean an even faster growing number of US visitors to Cuba thanks to the newly restored agreement to operate direct scheduled flights between the two neighbouring nations, the Bahamas, who haven't been sitting idly while watching the defrosting of previously icy relations between the two governments is launching a new strategy to protect its tourism sector. Having been sizing up the competition since the start of the thawing process between Cuba and the US, Bahamas wants to seize the opportunity to become a destination for multi-centre holidays.

How The Bahamas plans to make the most of the US-Cuba thaw

Not one to be left lagging behind, The Bahamas is certainly not going to be outdone by the competition easily (not without a fight at least) as it stands to lose out to a rapidly rising Caribbean counterpart in terms of tourism: Cuba.

Stepping up to the possibly fierce competition that Cuba could pose once (and if) the US-imposed trade embargo is lifted, The Bahamas is revamping its image to attract the very same US tourists interested in visiting the communist island as part of a multi-destination holiday.

Cuba would offer authenticity, charm, music, character, revolution, history and beaches while the Bahamas offers the ultimate lap of luxury no resort in Cuba can currently match up to. In a way, you can easily see why a multi-destination holiday that goes US-Cuba-Bahamas would work and how it would appeal a certain number of elite travellers.

But even before the lifting of the embargo happens, if at all, seeing the threat that Cuba poses even now, once it has been officially announced that direct flights between the island and the US will be fully restored thanks to a new agreement between the two countries to allow a maximum of 110 return flights per day, including 20 landing in Havana and 10 each arriving in other nine international airports across Cuba, The Bahamas is already taking action to secure a piece of the attractive Cuban pie and get in there before other destinations in the region do.

For quite some time the Bahamas has been eyeing Cuba as it rises in the horizon and for the past few years, the country has been trying to establish air links with Cuba anticipating that its attractive appeal for tourists would only increase and grow. At first, they had an earlier goal to provide Canadian holidaymakers (the biggest tourism market for Cuba) with access to Cuba via the Bahamas, which resulted in new air routes.

Now, in addition to services by Cubana (Cuba’s national flagship airline) and Bahamasair, Western Air also flies between the two Caribbean archipelagos. And it’s not just incoming tourists from North America that The Bahamas has been targeting, as travellers from Europe have also been warming up to the idea of a multi-destination holiday from the Bahamas. So now, the idea is, the more air routes that exist between Cuba and The Bahamas, the easier it will be to sell this idea to US travellers too.

The proposed new inter-island flights could also give a push to local companies and business people based in the Bahamas, who would be among the first to capitalise on any economic opportunities that might arise in Cuba as part of a foreseen process of liberalisation in the public sector (although this is still in the very early stages and the Cuban government remains highly reluctant to privatise most government-run organisations, companies and facilities).

Looking at other ways to grow its profile in the eyes of holidaymakers amidst the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, The Bahamas government is also in talks with several entertainment and promotion companies to host major events and festivals there. This has already happened with The Bahamas Bowl, a university football bowl game that was played in Nassau for the second time this Christmas.

Perry Christie, Bahamas’ Prime Minister, recently spoke about the rise of Cuba’s prominence in the tourism sector and addressed the need for more big events to be hosted by the nation and the improvement of air links for multi-destination travel.

A sign that full normalisation is closer than ever before, (even Republicans, like Rubio, who vow to stop it from happening would struggle to reverse the rapprochement process kick-started by Obama) the newly announced reestablishment of direct air links between the US and Cuba puts it all in the limelight.

So, the Bahamas is taking swift action to cushion the blow it could strike them in term of tourist numbers. Establishing more air links with Cuba can actually put them in a very advantageous position to make the most of the newly awakened interest in the formerly forbidden fruit of the Caribbean.


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