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Commentary: US-Cuba relations and the Dominican Republic tourism

The Dominican Republic and Cuba were the two major beneficiaries of tourism in the Caribbean throughout most of 2014. According to a December report by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, some 4.2 million tourists traveled to the Dominican Republic between January and October, while Cuba received 2.2 million between January and September. Jamaica comes at a slightly distant third place with 1.7 million.

These numbers make Cuba and the DR adversaries, as they are the two major destinations for tourists (i.e. Americans, Canadians or Europeans). Nevertheless, a 2005 study on Caribbean tourism muses that when the status quo changes between the US and Cuba it is feasible to foresee a dramatic change in the US market which “will change the rules of the game of Caribbean tourism.”

Given President Obama’s recent speech, it does seem like the rules of the game are about to change. The Dominican Republic’s newspaper Diario Libre explains how companies like the cruise line Carnival Corp., the discount airline JetBlue and even Orbitz are now ready for the embargo to be fully lifted in order to begin offering deals for American tourists to travel to Cuba. What this means regarding revenue loss for the Dominican Republic remains to be seen.

It is worth highlighting that it is not just the possibility of Cuba opening for business that may threaten tourism to the DR in the near future. Other Caribbean states are also receiving more visitors; case in point is Haiti, which received over 362,000 tourists in the first nine months of 2014 – this is a 21% increase from the same period in 2013. Likewise, Venezuela is turning to its Caribbean beaches in order to jumpstart its flagging economy. Hence, while Cuba is the DR’s major tourism adversary, we should not forget other nations that are also promoting tourism to enrich their coffers.

As a final point, it is important to remember that if American tourists choose to visit Cuba instead of the DR (whenever the embargo is lifted) this will not be solely because of the chance to visit an exotic location like Cuba, which has been closed to Americans for decades – although this is an obvious reason. If tourism to the DR were to decrease, it would be also because of internal issues that the DR government has yet to fix, such as citizen insecurity.

As we continue to discuss the future of US-Cuba relations after December 17, it is similarly important to keep in mind what this rapprochement will mean for the Caribbean region. The effect of closer US-Cuba relations on tourism to the Dominican Republic may not have an obvious connection at first sight, but if the embargo is lifted and Americans do begin pouring into Cuba, the coffers of the various Caribbean states that depend on tourism revenue, including the DR, will take a big hit.

Source: Caribbean News Now

Category: DR News |

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Last updated December 4, 2016 at 11:02 PM
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