A vote last week by the United States Congress, to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba by American citizens, could have a devastating impact on Jamaica’s struggling tourism sector, industry experts believe.
“No doubt, it could be a problem for Jamaica,” said Joe Issa, executive vice president of the SuperClubs chain of hotels.
“Without the United States, Cuba, for a number of years, has been doing very well in tourism. It stands to reason that with U.S. travelers now free to visit the island, tourism in Jamaica and other Caribbean destinations could be affected,” he added.
The U.S. Congress voted 240-186 in favour of lifting the restrictions, which for decades prevented Americans from travelling freely to the communist island. However, for it to be fully ratified, the Senate will have to also adopt the Bill, and then the President would then have to sign it into law. U.S. citizens can only travel to Cuba by obtaining a special license from the Treasury Department, which limits access generally to journalists, academics, Government officials and people on humanitarian missions.
Tourism Minister Portia Simpson Miller also believes that local tourism could be affected by the lifting of the travel ban on Cuba, but vowed Jamaica would not easily surrender its stake in the market.
“Right now we are not doing very well so any other destination offering a quality product could affect us,” Mrs. Simpson Miller told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
“However, I can tell you that we are not going to fold over and play dead. We have an aggressive sale team out there on the road selling the destination an if we all can do our part then it doesn’t matter which destination opens up, we will be able to hold our own. If we continue to destroy ourselves, though, of course we will be affected. No other destination has what we have in terms of diversity and natural beauty.”
Source: The Gleaner