Cuba's increase in U.S travellers could shake the Caribbean
As President Barrack Obama announces new measures to allow U.S citizens to take Cuba holidays, the increase in visitors to the island could prove to have a significant effect on surrounding islands in the Caribbean.
Last week, President Obama eased restrictions on U.S citizen travelling to Cuba for educational academic, cultural and religious purposes. As restrictions are easing on the ongoing decades-long Cuba travel embargo, many surrounding Caribbean islands are concerned about the impact it could have on tourism in their countries.
Last week's ease on travel restrictions will enable schools, churches and cultural groups to take Cuba holidays and there could soon be an increase in charter flights to Cuba to accommodate the rise in travellers.
These new measures, along with Obama's earlier administration steps to allow travellers of Cuban origin to visit their families in Cuba, could see a dramatic increase in the number of visitors heading off on Cuba holidays, whether it is for educational or family purposes.
The number of Havana flights have already increase to 20 flights a day between Miami and Havana as hundreds of Cuban-Americans headed off to see their families for the end of year holidays.
Travel agencies will now be able to benefit from these relaxed restrictions and introduce charter flights with cultural purposes allowing easier access for travellers.
Andy Dauhajre, an economist for the Dominican Republic's Economic and Development Foundation, said: "The new measures won't produce an explosion of U.S. tourism to Cuba, but that will come eventually.
"And when it comes, it will have a significant impact over places like Cancun, the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.''
If Mr Dauhajre's estimates are correct, Cuba hotels and businesses could benefit from the arrival of between one million and three million tourists from the United States which could result in a decline in the number of travellers taking Caribbean holidays to other surrounding countries and islands. Cancun could see a loss of 700,000 annual U.S visitors; Jamaica, 400,000; the Bahamas, 600,000; and the Dominican Republic 360,000.
Dauhajre added: "The key is whether Cuba will be able to build more hotel rooms to accommodate the new U.S. visitors. If it can't, there will be a spill-over of Canadian and European tourists to other Caribbean destinations."
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