Cuba: Opportunities And Challenges For Caribbean Tourism by Glen Bart
With the recent normalizing of US-Cuba diplomatic relations, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is welcoming the potential for increased US visitors to the Caribbean. Cuba is a member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization having joined since 1992. According to a CTO release, the Caribbean hosted over 12 million US visitors in 2013, and indicated that Cuba offered the opportunity to increase that number. “Any opportunity to substantially increase that number will be welcomed… The CTO proudly promotes an exciting, diverse tourism product offered by its over 30 member countries. Cuba is an integral part of the diversity… We look forward to including Cuba in our programmes in the United States,” the CTO statement reads. Tourism experts are generally of the view that the prospect of an open Cuba in tourism would have a significant impact on the remainder of the Caribbean, albeit not all positive for individual islands. According to Nick Menon, president of the St. Kitts and Nevis Hotel and Tourism Association (HTA), Cuba’s entry into tourism as a major player would affect visitor arrivals to the Federation, but he believes that the Federation would excel given its current path of tourism development. “It does depend on what niche Cuba enters, but the cost advantage of Cuba’s proximity to the US for the favoured four to five-day spread would influence US travelers and have a ripple effect throughout the Caribbean,” said Menon, who believes that the Federation’s future tourism success would lie in the country’s ability to stand out in the market. “If we could continue to differentiate St. Kitts and Nevis as a higher end destination, then we should have the opportunities to succeed,” explained the HTA president, who pointed to some of the properties that would support the high-end status, such as the refurbished Ocean Terrace Inn (OTI), the Four Seasons Resort and Kittitian Hill among others. Last week Wednesday, Puerto Rico’s secretary of state David Bernier stated that the opening of Cuba for tourism from the US would have a “major impact”. “This decision is not only important for Cuba and the U.S., but also for the Caribbean region, because there is now a major player that, once fully open to the U.S., will have a significant impact on all trade and tourism,” said Bernier, who believes that a full change in diplomatic status would provide the Caribbean countries with “opportunities and challenges”. “The Caribbean needs to be prepared to respond appropriately,” said Bernier.