U.S.-Cuba Travel Shouldn't Faze Other Caribbean Destinations
BY HARRIET BASKAS
Other Caribbean travel destinations have little to fear, for now, from
the news that some Americans will soon be allowed to travel to Cuba
without prior permission.
Slews of Americans fired up their computers and mobile devices and typed
in "Cuba" and "vacation" soon after President Barack Obama announced
plans to normalize relations with the Caribbean country in December.
Cuba has been officially off limits to American travelers for decades.
"Searches for Cuba jumped 360 percent, comparing the day of the
announcement - December 17 - with the day before and the same day the
week prior," said Kurt Weinsheimer, vice president of business
development and partnerships for data marketing company Sojern.
There was also a spike of concern for what the opening of Cuba to U.S.
tourists might do to the tourism industry in Puerto Rico and other parts
of the Caribbean.
Like many of those destinations, "Cuba has magnificent beaches and a
fascinating history" said travel expert Arthur Frommer. But pent-up
desire for U.S. travel to Cuba "will obviously cut into a certain amount
of traffic," he said.
Traditional Caribbean destinations popular with U.S. tourists, "would be
foolish not to worry," said Pauline Frommer who, with her father, serves
as co-president of Frommer Media. But because hotel capacity, air routes
and other tourism-oriented infrastructure in Cuba are in need of
improvement, the full impact of the liberalization will not be felt for
a couple of years, she said.
For now, Western comforts that American tourists find in other Caribbean
islands like Puerto Rico "are virtually non-existent in all but a
handful of Cuban resorts," said Lorna Parkes, Lonely Planet's
Destination Editor, Central America and the Caribbean, "So reducing
barriers to travel to Cuba is highly unlikely to detract from the
package-holiday favorites that American travelers love."
If anything, said Parkes, the lifting of travel restrictions for U.S.
visitors to Cuba "will only help encourage visits to the region as a whole."
The rising tide
That's what tourism officials in Puerto Rico believe.
"As more Caribbean countries open their frontiers, it's better for all
of us," said Mari Jo Laborde, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for the
government-owned Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
Laborde expects travelers to plan visit both Puerto Rico and Cuba, or at
least fly to Cuba with a connection in Puerto Rico, and notes that many
Puerto Rican residents have strong family ties to Cuba.
The normalization of relations between U.S. and Cuba may create an
opportunity for Cubans to visit Puerto Rico, she said. Many corporations
have their Caribbean headquarters in Puerto Rico, which means more
opportunities for business travel between Cuba and Puerto Rico.
"We don't see the relaxation of travel restrictions to Cuba as a
threat," said Laborde, "We see it as an opportunity."
The Caribbean Tourism Organization agrees. "Last year we welcomed over
12 million Americans to our shores," the CTO said in a statement, "An
opportunity to substantially increase that number will be welcomed."
On Friday, Cuba's top diplomat for U.S. affairs told MSNBC that an
increase in Americans jetting to Cuba could happen as soon as this year,
if the U.S. eases travel resrtrictions.
Source: U.S.-Cuba Travel Shouldn't Faze Other Caribbean Destinations -
NBC News.com -