Cuba leads the way in Caribbean tourism

Posted: 25-Feb-16 14:03

With Caribbean tourism up 7% in 2015, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, it should come as no great surprise that Cuba's recently-relaxed travel restrictions were by far the biggest contributing factor.

Cuba leads the way in Caribbean tourism

Statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization have revealed that annual tourism in the region has risen by 7% compared to the figures for 2014, with some 28.7 million stopover arrivals last year.

Not unexpectedly, Cuba led the way for the Caribbean Islands with 17.4% growth, drawing more than 3.5 million visitors in 2015. Of that figure, 1.3 million visitors were from “other” source markets – a category that includes the US – marking a 20% increase since travel restrictions were relaxed.

While visitors from Canada (1.3 million visitors in 2015, a 10.5% increase) and Europe (900,000 visitors, up 23.1%) are permitted to vacation in the country, the travel embargo between Cuba and the US means that American citizens can only visit under 12 pre-approved categories – but as the latest set of figures show, these conditions have clearly been no barrier to tourism from the country.

More visitors expected in 2016

With President Barack Obama attempting to strengthen relations with America’s old Cold War foe, in the past year it has been made far easier for tour operators to offer people-to-people itineraries (educational or cultural trips where travellers meet Cuban citizens), and this has clearly had a major impact on how many American citizens have attempted to visit the island in the past 12 months.

This trend looks set to continue this year as commercial air routes are opened for the first time in 50 years, with virtually all of America’s leading airlines reportedly set to apply to offer services to Cuba as of this summer. Once the routes have been awarded by the US Department of Transportation, each airline must then negotiate its own deal with Cuba to provide flights to airports on the island.

Naturally, with tourism figures already on the rise and visitor numbers only set to continue growing in 2016, there are some concerns as to how Cuba’s accommodation and transport infrastructure will cope with the increased demand – but based on the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s latest report, there will no doubt be plenty of keen local entrepreneurs who are ready to rise to the challenge.


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