Tourism growing the world over — US/Cuba relations will be no exception

Tourism growing the world over — US/Cuba relations will be no exception


Monday, May 11, 2015

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Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. -- Maya Angelou

A vacation is extremely important in the scheme of things to reinvigore the human body and mind. With the normalisation of US/Cuba relations, the Caribbean island will certainly be ranked among the favourite destinations for relaxation and recreation.

It is very clear that the Obama Administration is extremely serious about normalising relations with Cuba. On Tuesday, May 5, 2015 it was announced that the Miami-based Baja Ferries, which operates a passenger service based in Mexico, was issued a licence from the US Treasury Department to operate ferry services between the United States of America and Cuba. Another licence to operate a ferry service was also granted to the Puerto Rico-based American Cruise Ferries. Before 1959, Cuban Revolution ferries ran daily between Florida and Cuba, bringing American tourists to Cuba's casinos, hotels and white sand beaches.

This recent move by President Barack Obama to meet face to face with Raul Castro in Panama at the Summit of the Americas was rather bold and forward-thinking and will undoubtedly facilitate hundreds of thousands US tourists making the journey across the Caribbean Sea to sample Cuba's hospitality and culture.

Tourism can be defined as travel for recreation, leisure, family or business purposes usually for a limited duration. The terms tourism and travel are sometimes used interchangeably. Tourism can either be classified as domestic or international. Travelling within one's own country is referred to as domestic tourism, while travelling outside is called international tourism.

Today, tourism is a major source of income for many countries, including those of the Caribbean. Income from tourism comes in the form of payment for goods and services needed by tourists. Our local farmers benefit tremendously from tourism as the many hotels and resorts purchase food items to cater to the culinary desires of the tourists.

Many service industries directly benefit from tourism, partcularly transportation services, such as, airlines, cruise ships, taxicabs. The hospitality services also benefits from tourism and this include hotels and resorts, entertainment venues, amusement parks, casinos, shopping malls, music venues, and theatres.

And there are various types of tourism, some of the more popular ones are: Ecotourism, a style of travel in which an emphasis is placed on unspoiled, natural destinations and on disturbing the environment as little as possible. There is also medical tourism, which is defined as travel that includes arrangements for medical procedures, most often elective plastic surgery. Cultural tourism is defined as travel to experience the arts or history of a location or travel to immerse oneself in the language, society, or culture of a region. It might surprise you as well to know that some tourists travel thousands of miles to destinations solely for drugs. Marijuana tourism is recreational travel undertaken solely or primarily to indulge in the use of marijuana in jurisdictions where it is legal. With the recent decriminalization of marijuana in the amount of two ounces or less, Jamaica stands to benefit from those who seek a quick high. There is also sex tourism for which the Caribbean is fast becoming known as a destination for those who seek this hedonistic pleasure. Sex tourism is travel undertaken primarily to Third World countries for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity, often of an extreme, forbidden, or illegal nature.

Last, but by no means least, there is also sport tourism. Sport tourism is travel undertaken for the purpose of engaging in a particular sport, training, or to watch a favourite team play.

In 2014, Cuba recorded three million international visitors more than Jamaica. Cuba earned more than US$2.5 billion in 2014. The US has a sizeable Cuban population. Many Cubans fled the island after the 1959 revolution which turned the island of 11 million people to a communist state. That year international tourism generated US$1.5 trillion in export earnings. International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 per cent to 1.135 billion.

Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world.

Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses growing number of new destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress.

Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of the export of oil, food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries.

This global spread of tourism in industrialised and developed states has produced economic and employment benefits as this growth goes hand in hand with an increasing diversification and competition among destinations.

According to Minister of Tourism Dr Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica recorded a 3.6 per cent increase in tourist arrivals in 2014. Jamaica received an estimated US$2.2 billion in revenue. The island welcomed more than two million stopover visitors in 2014. Stopover arrivals out of Europe grew by 10.7 per cent, Canada grew by 5.2 per cent, and the United States grew by 2.2 per cent, with the Asian market growing by 9.2 per cent. In 2014 Jamaica welcomed 1,423,797 cruise visitors.

We should not fear the competition that Cuba will undoubtedly pose to Brand Jamaica. Instead, we should work with Cuba in providing vacation packages which would see tourists travelling to both destinations to sample the best that both islands have to offer. We should be equipping our students at the secondary level of the education system with a foreign language, namely Spanish, in order to take up the opportunities that will emerge as Cuba becomes a dominant player in Caribbean travel and tourism.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Comments: @WayneCamo

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