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ON THE LEFT: Opening of Cuba market will affect all


Brian Samuel

ON THE LEFT: Opening of Cuba market will affect all

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Traditionally, we have always had the United States as our top market and that still is the case.

Thirty-nine per cent of visitors to the Caribbean for the first six months of the year were from the US and then the rest is almost equally split between Canada – 20 per cent, Europe – 20 per cent and other, which is intra Caribbean, Latin America and so forth.

This is all of the Caribbean, and that includes Cuba. I have described Cuba as the sleeping giant. It’s the elephant that’s about to enter the room.

I think a lot of people don’t know how big the Cuban tourist industry is. It is joint top in the Caribbean in terms of arrivals and it is the second largest country in the Caribbean in terms of hotel stock.

Cuba has 55 000 hotel rooms, which dwarfs everybody else except Dominican Republic and we better get prepared for when Cuba opens up – it’s not going to be long.

I think that’s going to release a flood of pent up demand for Americans wanting to go to Cuba, I think that will affect Jamaica, it will affect Dominican Republic, it will affect Bahamas, it will affect these mainstream markets, where I think people will say, ‘Rather than going to Jamaica this year, let’s go to Cuba’.

So be ready for that sort of sucking up of arrivals into Cuba from the other traditional markets.

I think at the end of the day we do compete with each other. There is a vast difference in critical mass and at the end of the day each country wants tourism to grow in their country first and everywhere else second – that’s the reality.

Just earlier this year I was working with CTO and we were working for the World Bank trying to get some data on intra Caribbean passenger movements for a ferry project and it’s very difficult to get intra Caribbean passengers movements because typically a country will say on its arrival form USA, Canada, Europe and “Other”. Other is everybody else.

So it’s very difficult to actually get a pattern of movement within the Caribbean, who is going to where.

As you go deeper into it, it is kind of available but you have to extrapolate. Intra-Caribbean arrivals have been going down. Intra-Caribbean movement of people has gone down about from 950 000 passengers to about 720 000 so it’s quite a fall off.

If you look at LIAT fares, they are on average per mile travelled over four times as high as European fares.

It’s not necessarily LIAT’s fault. LIAT’s taxation is about 47 per cent of its base cost. There could be a lot more scope for intra-Caribbean travel if it was cheaper.

My pet peeve is we have no ferry. It takes two and a half hours to get from Trinidad to Grenada on a fast ferry, [but] there isn’t one and at some times of the year you just cannot get a seat on any airline because they are just clogged up.

Brian Samuel is a Grenadian financial consultant who has worked in the tourism industry.

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