For far too long the Caribbean has taken tourism for granted, according to a white paper recently issued by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) entitled, "Cuba: The Great Disruption for the Good of the Caribbean."
The paper states that the country that many regard as the least capitalistic in the region is about to teach its neighbor governments, capitalists and free market adherents a lesson.
The white paper stresses that through the years, the Governments of the Caribbean have shown a preference for revenues from commodities and agriculture to revenues from tourism. Cuba has long recognized that the great advantages of tourism are that it not only brings much needed foreign exchange but also delivers broad-based employment, establishes linkages throughout the economy, depletes few, if any, natural resources and is sustainable over time.
The CHTA aims to raise awareness about both the challenges and the opportunities to the region with the pending removal of travel barriers to Cuba. The paper stresses that the anticipated increase of U.S. visitors to Cuba should prompt the region's public and private sector leaders to take positive steps to improve their global competitiveness or face negative economic and social consequences.
"We want to be clear that the CHTA welcomes the lifting of the U.S. travel embargo and Cuba participating with the rest of the Caribbean as a tourism partner," said Emil Lee, CHTA president and St. Maarten hotelier, in a written release. "This would eliminate a significant barrier to improving regional cooperation and integration." The paper also describes trade and investment opportunities, how Cuba can learn from the region and how the region can learn from Cuba about improving destination and regional competitiveness."
The paper candidly states that "relatively little effort has been spent on turning the most tourism dependent region in the world into the most tourism competent. The coming Cuban disruption just might be the tonic that the countries need individually and collectively to build the kind of strategic approaches to tourism development that will yield sustainable results for its citizens."