Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), says there would be no major fallout in visitor arrivals to the rest of the Caribbean in the wake of Fidel Castro’s stepping down, unless the United States opens up its market to the Caribbean country.
“Regional governments should not become overly anxious because, for several years, Cuba has had a very open policy as far as tourism is concerned, accepting visitors from all over the world,” said the renowned expert, who is in Jamaica as one of the speakers at the Tourism Outlook seminar at the Hilton Kingston hotel in New Kingston.
On the other hand, Baumgarten predicts that if the US opens up its market, it will have a ripple effect as “thousands will flock there because of its newness”.
Cuba still sought after
He said tourists were keen to go to new destinations and Cuba, with all its images of the past, will certainly be the most sought-after destination, especially in the first couple of years.
One other option that the WTTC president pointed to, which he said he hopes is never realised, is a situation in which there is political unrest.
“That, of course, would change everything. There would be a sharp downturn in Cuba’s arrival figures, as is the case with Kenya at this time.”
Without receiving any stopover visitors from the US, Cuba’s 2007 January to September figures showed a significant 1.6 million arrivals, outperforming destina-tions and traditional markets such as Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cancun and the US Virgin Islands, nations that get more than 70 per cent of their tourists from the North American country.