Opening Cuba to U.S. Tourism -- Good for the Entire Caribbean?
Photo Credit: Savvas Garovis
A New International Monetary Fund paper suggests it just might be.
The working paper, titled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Vacation Over: Implications for the Caribbean of Opening U.S.-Cuba tourism,Ã¢â‚¬Â is authored by Rafael Romeu. It can be found here.
Romeu projects that normalizing tourism relations between the U.S. and Cuba would lead to a 10% increase in overall travel to the Caribbean at large. The report states that the opening would lead to Ã¢â‚¬Å“seismic shiftÃ¢â‚¬Â in tourism, with U.S. travel quickly out-pacing the Cuban tourism infrastructure, leading to a spill over of travel for other islands. Cuba currently receives 1.38 million tourists per year. The study estimates between 3 and 3.5 million U.S. tourists would travel to Cuba if restrictions were opened.
Small islands with strong European ties are most likely to gain, picking up European tourists that seek new destinations: Martinique, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados are all projected to receive bumps.
But the study also has some clear losers.
The projectÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s third scenario -- which is based on a model where 2/3 of travelers select Cuba over a different location in the region and where 1/3 are deemed Ã¢â‚¬Å“new Ã¢â‚¬Å“ travelers -- projects a 23% decline in the number of travelers for the U.S. Virgin Islands, a 10-15% decline for Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cancun, Bermuda, and a 17-20% decline for Anguilla, Aruaba, and the Bahamas.
Regional governments are already concerned, reflecting the growing understanding that U.S. Cuba policy is about to shift seismically. An interesting op-ed, by Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, suggests that negative repercussions of possible travel opening may be the driving force behind Mexican efforts to cozy up with the Havana regime.