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Competition, connectivity and the Caribbean tourism market – commentary

By David Jessop

When the former US president, Barack Obama, announced in late 2014 that he was easing travel restrictions on US citizens wishing to visit Cuba, a frisson ran through the tourist industry in the rest of the region. Seminars and conferences were hastily convened, papers produced, and Caribbean governments sought to understand the extent to which Cuba’s opening to the US market might divert visitors.

A little more than two years on, the concerns of the sector seem to have been largely allayed.

The industry variously has taken comfort from capacity constraints in Havana, rapidly rising room rates, and relatively poor service, at a time when there has been strong growth in visitor numbers and revenues in much of the rest of the region.

Despite this, it would be wise to consider closely the implications of Cuba and the Dominican Republic’s recently revealed tourism development plans.

What is clear is that both nations are now taking steps significantly to develop their visitor offering in ways that suggest that other Caribbean tourism-reliant economies should prepare for the competition they will face.

In the case of Cuba, those responsible for the industry are well aware of their product’s shortcomings, and are moving rapidly to improve the country’s tourism product.

As a national economic imperative, the Cuban government is focusing on tourism development and the need to enhance earnings by encouraging visitors to stay for longer, moderating prices, improving service levels, and diversifying the range of accommodation available.

In recent months, official statements have also indicated a new focus on city center tourism away from Havana; the creation of completely new resorts; encouraging investment in real estate, in part, alongside the 13 golf courses now under construction; offering external parties management of Cuban-owned hotels and marinas; creating fishing, diving and equestrian centers; and the construction of theme parks using the latest technology

At the same time, Cuba is focusing on rapidly increasing room numbers, remodeling existing hotel facilities, and creating more four and five star properties, especially in Havana, while bringing private accommodation into state marketing programmes.

As a part of its plan to provide better value, the country’s state hotel operators are, as a matter of national policy contracting out the management of whole groups of hotels to mainly Spanish companies such as Melia and Iberostar. In addition, agreements are being signed for international training programmes, for example with Portugal.

Read the full story on Caribbean news now

Category: DR News |

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Last updated November 17, 2017 at 12:17 PM
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