By Dana Niland
Cuba has acted as a leader in capitalizing on the advantages of tourism better than any other Caribbean country, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says in a new white paper entitled Cuba: The Great Disruption for the Good of the Caribbean.
According to the paper, while Cuba is less capitalistic than others in the region, it has successfully used its tourism industry to deliver broad-based employment and establish linkages throughout the economy.
“Cuba should not be a point of fear for the region, rather it should be a rallying point for opportunity,” said CHTA President and St Maarten hotelier Emil Lee. “Failure to act will result in a diversion of Americans and travelers curious to experience Cuba before it changes, many who would otherwise go elsewhere in the Caribbean.”
Unlike other Caribbean nations, which depend more on revenues from commodities and agriculture than tourism revenue, Cuba has avoided depleting its natural resources.
The CHTA also aims to bring to light both the challenges and opportunities to the region with the impending removal of travel barriers to Cuba, and addresses how Cuba can learn from the rest of the region and vis-versa.
Lee expressed that Cuba’s status as a popular destination for direct flights demonstrates its potential to be a regional air hub, which could stimulate travel to the Caribbean.
“Advancing these ease of travel and cost of travel strategies would drive more business to the region,” said Lee.
The paper calls the Caribbean community to examine the factors that have contributed to Cuba’s success, and to develop these kinds of strategies and policies that promote business.
“The CHTA believes that by working together, heads of government with heads of industry, hundreds of thousands of tourism-related jobs and hundreds of tourism-related businesses can be created,” said CHTA CEO Frank Comito. “The indirect impact which tourism has on our broader economies cannot be understated. As tourism thrives, so do beauty parlors, banks, grocery stores, auto repair shops, contractors, street vendors and on and on.”