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The mojito effect? Cuba holidays immune to Caribbean slump

  • 09-Oct-09 16:17
  • Cuba
  • Holiday Industry

Even when Cuba holidays aren't the only ones benefiting from a boost in the Caribbean, Cuba's record-breaking figure of 1.57million tourists is defying the year to date trend of previous years, making Cuba the Caribbean country with fastest growth

The mojito effect? Cuba holidays immune to Caribbean slump

While tourism is down across much of the Caribbean, Cuba holidays seem to be enjoying a privileged position in the Caribbean holidays market with tourist arrivals to the island having gone up by 3.1%, year to date. As a matter of fact, Cuba has now climbed to the number 2 position, becoming the second Caribbean holiday destination in terms of tourist arrivals, only falling behind the Dominican Republic, where this year arrivals fell by 2%, year to date.

Cuba might be famous for its broad appeal and mixed elements of sunny beaches, glamorous old 50s cars, cigars, iconic Che and his revolutionary allure and its unique soulful music, but it’s not like other Caribbean holiday destinations are lacking charm either. The real reason why Cuba holidays are attracting more and more travelers is that the country now offers really good deals for recession-weary sun-seekers.

“I think Cuba has always been more of a competitive destination in terms of price and value for the money,” said the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s director of research and information management, Winfield Griffith. "There is a wide interest in Cuba among Canadians and Europeans." she added.

Canada sends more tourists to Cuba holidays than any other nation, followed by Britain ranking high in the second position and then Spain and Italy following close behind.

Cuba holidays, however, aren’t the only Caribbean holidays in the plus column with Jamaica’s tourist arrivals also up by 3.4% as of 17th September this year and Guyana’s also increasing by 6.4% during the same period. However, Cuba’s 1.57 million tourists still outstripped the figures for those other 2 countries by far. The only country coming out as the winner in the number of visitors was the Dominican Republic, receiving a total of 2.54 million tourists, even when this figure is down, year to date.

And this increase in Cuba holidays is even more significant against Dominican Republic holidays and all other Caribbean countries, because it doesn’t take into account the American market, since U.S. citizens are forbidden from traveling to the island unless in certain special condition, but not for leisure.

For the rest of the region, Griffith says his organisation sees signs of a recovery, but still remains feeble for now. "Most of the indicators are still negative, of course," he explains. "They're just less negative than they were this same time last year."

As for Cuba holidays, it's unclear whether the country is currently truly ready for tourism prime-time. The 42,000-square mile country has only about 50,000 hotel rooms according to a report in Hispanic Business and would need a bigger and improved infrastructure to welcome an unprecedented increase of visitors.

But many tourism operators, at least some from outside the U. S. say there are lots of reasons to explain why tourism in the "Pearl of the Antilles" is holding up.

"Cuban cities feel like cities in a foreign country -- no McDonald's, no huge supermarkets, but instead fresh produce markets, European and Chinese vehicles, and old buildings in elegant styles," said Kate Daley of Canada's Real Cuba travel agency.

"Tourists feel like they are in a foreign country, one with a past." And those free-flowing mojitos certainly help set the atmosphere and romantic mood.

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