The Caribbean Journal reports that Caribbean hotels are off to a very slow start in 2016, according to new data from hotel analytics firm STR. The region’s hotels reported occupancy of 74 percent in March, down 4.5 percent compared to March It was the largest single-month decline in the Caribbean since April 2013. With those numbers lurking in the background Caribbean nations are digesting the potential impact of a ramped up Cuban tourism market on their economies.
Though short on tourism sector infrastructure, a go-slow approach on approval of airline and cruise ship franchises, and tourist numbers that do not equal other island destinations Cuba is however seeing a rapid rise in tourist visits. Experts estimate that 161,233 people from the US visited Cuba in 2015, an increase of 79 percent over the previous year. Caribbean 360 also reports Cuba’s first deputy tourism minister Alexis Trujillo recently described the current period as a “good trend” for the tourism sector with an expected 175,200 foreign vacationers more than the previous year. Trujillo added that tourism reached a record high last year, finishing with over 3,524,000 vacationers visiting Cuba, a figure that officials are looking to surpass this year. Cuba is a player and Caribbean nations are reacting.
Caribbean 360 reports Jamaica’s tourism officials will meet soon with their counterparts in Cuba and the Dominican Republic to finalize an arrangement for the multi-destination marketing of the countries. The countries have been in talks on reaching a tripartite agreement that will boost arrivals and add value to the tourism product in the Caribbean region. A Memorandum of Understanding should be agreed on by next month and Cuba will certainly be on the minds of those attending the 26th annual Jamaica Product Exchange trade expo April 29th to May 1.
Barbados is seeking to further partner with Cuba in an effort to take advantage of emerging opportunities now that the country has re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States of America. Officials say a delegation of government and private officials would be traveling to Cuba on a trade mission.
The Bahamas is currently engaged in hashing out an agreement with Cuba to market the two countries as a two nation travel package. Though concerns about the Cuba tourism market abound industry boosters see it as an opportunity.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association has maintained that there is opportunity in working together. The CHTA has publicly embraced the tourism developments in Cuba as an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration to strengthen the entire region.
“Is it possible for the rest of us to survive and Cuba grow? Absolutely says former Saint Lucian Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet who spoke with the Telesur Network. “If Cuba takes away market share from other places in the world. I think…Cuba can bring more attention back to the Caribbean and make the Caribbean the darling of the world again.”