DoT upbeat about Cuba’s burgeoning tourism

| 15/06/2016 | 0 Comments
CNS Business

Havana, Cuba

(CNS Business): Tourism to Cuba was boosted last week with the announcement of two major developments: there will be a resumption, after more than 50 years, of commercial flights to the island from the US before the end of the year, and a new Miami-based cruise line is planning trips from Florida to Cuba. However, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism Director Rosa Harris believes these developments will be positive for the Cayman Islands and said the DoT is exploring the possibility of dual destination packages.

“Based on available insights, we are engaged in a discussion with our travel partners about creating a product which would offer combined destination experiences with Cuba,” Harris told CNS Business. “Once that market is easily bookable through vacation packages, we look to leverage our excellent trade relationships and exceptional Cayman Islands tourism product to create new, memorable experiences.”

She said that as a leading Caribbean destination, they remain in tune with key stakeholders, including media and consumers, and marketing plans can be adjusted as needed.

“It is clear that there is a niche with Cuba as a destination that has been restricted for decades. In saying that, the Cayman Islands is positioned to foster relations with Cuba in the future, specifically due to the national airline Cayman Airways offering frequent air service to Havana, Cuba,” Harris said. “We believe that the purpose of travel to Cuba will be for culture and history, which could make for a connection point with the Cayman Islands.

“Our goal is to remain focused on developing sustainable tourism strategies that speak to our core markets, which are the USA, Canada, UK/Europe and Latin America and in turn, continue to differentiate our destination, stimulate the Cayman Islands economy through tourism and ultimately increase stay-over arrivals to the Cayman Islands,” she added.

In a much anticipated development in the slow thaw of US-Cuba relations, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Frontier Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Silver Airways have all been awarded routes to Cuba’s secondary routes, which include Holguin, Matanzas, Santa Clara, Camaguey and Cienfuegos. Routes to Havana – the big prize in the market – are not expected to be allocated until later this year.

Flights from the US to Cuba, which will depart from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis, are expected to begin this autumn.

All routes are still subject to approval by the Cuban government, as are the cruises that a new Miami-based cruise line is planning to offer departing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Cuba, though it is highly unlikely it will refuse.

Victory Cruise Lines Ltd, which will be operating a small 200-passenger ship, is hoping to run its cruises, ranging from three to 14 days, to the communist island nation from late October to April, with stops at ports including Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos.

This follows the launch in May of a Carnival cruise to Cuba, the first for over 50 years, aboard the Adonia, which is part of its Fathom cruise fleet.

However, the tourism rush from the US to Cuba won’t happen just yet. The US Department of Transportation has made it clear that travel to Cuba as a regular tourist is still strictly prohibited, and travel is restricted to those who fall under one of twelve categories, including religious work, journalism, family travel and official government business, or for cultural, humanitarian and educational exchanges.

Commenting on advances that Cuba has made recently with regard to the relaxation of US travel market, including the new cruise and flight routes, Harris said the DoT expects news of Cuba’s tourism development to have positive impact on brand awareness for the entire region, including the Cayman Islands.

“While we certainly share the same waters, our tourism strategy focuses on product differentiation, such as specific positioning through indicators of airlift, room stock and our island’s quality vacation offerings,” she said. “As always, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism will remain a key player in destination marketing and communication that focus on the unique three island ‘Caymankind’ experiences our visitors have come to know, expect and love.”

She noted that in the past 18 months the DoT team has engaged with key travel advisors, wholesale and online travel agent partners in the US on this specific topic, to gauge interest in Cuba within Cayman’s target markets, booking capabilities and regulation guidelines.

“Furthermore, we continue to conduct forums and focus groups with our travel agent partners and these ongoing forums have already yielded useful insights that we are currently reviewing in an effort to improve our strategy in capitalizing on the emergence of Cuba,” she said.

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Category: Caribbean Business, Cruise Tourism, Stay-over tourism, Tourism, World Business

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