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Cuba moves could drive Canadian tourism

Cuba moves could drive Canadian tourism

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 18, 2014

Cuba has always held a certain allure for the traveller: the music, the food, the beaches and even the cigars.

While the United States is moving toward relaxing rules on travel to the island nation only 150 kilometres off the coast of Florida, it is not opening the floodgates for U.S. tourists just yet.

More trips will be permitted, for family visits, research, professional meetings and athletic competitions, but travel for tourism will still be against the law unless Congress moves to lift a longstanding economic embargo.

Many believe that will eventually happen, and the idea that Americans might soon flood the popular vacation spot could spur more Canadians to visit now.

“I think there will be an uptick of Canadians who are thinking about going to Cuba, or haven’t been, thinking this is our last chance to get a great deal,” said Allison Wallace, a spokeswoman for Flight Centre Canada.

Cuba has long been a destination of choice for Canadians and Europeans, who especially target all-inclusive resorts near Varadero that are considered affordable, Wallace said.

“As soon as it opens (to Americans), whenever that is, we would certainly expect the prices to go higher since it’s all about supply and demand,” she said.

Cuba has always been attractive to Canadians for its history and culture, but an added bonus was that Americans couldn’t go, keeping prices down.

McGill University business professor Karl Moore said that while Canadian sun seekers won’t likely feel an immediate impact from the news, he expects U.S. companies will begin to think about investing there.

“Back in the day, Havana was one of the great spots of the world,” Moore said. “I think there will be a lot of people thinking it will happen eventually. Let’s get ready for it.”

A handful of international companies already operate in Cuba. Spanish hotel chain Melia has 26 properties on the island.

U.S. companies such as Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International — the two largest chains by rooms — say they welcome any future opportunities to include Cuba in their rapidly growing global footprint.

“We will take our cues from the U.S. government, but look forward to opening hotels in Cuba, as companies from others countries have done already,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said via an emailed statement.

“Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, so there’s some exciting possibilities,” said Roger Frizzell, spokesman for Carnival Corp. He said “some infrastructure for cruising already exists in the country,” although other issues “need to be taken into consideration if this market opens up.”

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