Jamaican Tourism Pact with Cuba Looks To Leverage 'Critical Mass'
PHOTO: Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett will soon sign an agreement to pursue multi-destination tourism with Cuba. (Photo by Brian Major)
Suffice it to say Jamaica’s tourism minister is taking a proactive approach to the prospect of increased Cuba travel among U.S. citizens. Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett will this week sign an agreement with a top Cuban official to facilitate “multi-destination tourism” between the two Caribbean countries, he said recently. Bartlett added he will sign a similar agreement with the Dominican Republic in June.
Speaking at last week’s Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) conference, Bartlett said he has discussed “a number of critical issues that we can embark on together” with Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Cuba’s ambassador to Jamaica.
Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica represent “60 percent of the entire Caribbean in terms of tourism,” said Bartlett, with combined annual arrivals of nearly 13 million visitors. The three nations should leverage that “critical mass” to the benefit of all three, Bartlett said.
“Today’s travelers are interested in multiple destinations, and the cost of attracting aviation is humongous,” he said. “To the extent that we can share and negotiate together with airlines and tour operators, we can create experiences and visitor programs and attract investment to the region. Three countries are stronger than one.”
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Indeed as Bartlett pointed out, the three countries are currently the Caribbean’s top-drawing travel destinations, with the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica recording 5.6 million, 3.5 million and 2.1 million overnight arrivals respectively in 2015 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data.
The Jamaican tourism minister did not provide specifics on the upcoming agreements, including how the respective governments and tourism ministries would approach issues ranging from joint marketing to visa requirements. Bartlett said details would be issued “in the coming weeks.”
He did say he hoped the countries could ultimately forge “a common regional agreement” like [Europe’s] Schengen visa, which allows free movement of citizens among 26 countries.
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Interestingly, Bartlett earlier this year said he was “mystified” by suggestions that travel to Jamaica will be affected by a full U.S. restoration of travel to Cuba.
“I can state quite clearly today that I personally do not see a threat,” he said. “Our biggest market is the United States, where we currently get a 2 percent share,” he said. “Even if Cuba picks up a 5 percent share there is still a 93 percent share out there to be had. We have the tools to compete with anybody, including Cuba.”
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