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Cuban opening to increase Caribbean tourist competition

Cuban opening to increase Caribbean tourist competition

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 22, 2014

The historic shift in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba could be an opportunity for the island to emerge as one of the biggest competitors in the Caribbean tourist market, where large Spanish hotel chains enjoy a privileged position.

The announcement this past week by the governments of Cuba and the United States of a process of normalizing bilateral diplomatic relations, broken off in 1961, opens up new possibilities for the communist regime.

Despite the fact that Cuba has been a prime tourist destination since the 1990s, in the competition for market share it came to the party much later than Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Nevertheless, by virtue of its natural beauty and tourist facilities, tourism has become the main business engaged in by Spanish firms on the island, with 75 percent of Madrid's investments concentrated in the sector, according to figures provided by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, or ICEX.

The first Spanish hotel in the modern era was established on the island 25 years ago and currently there are 27 such hotels with 13,000 rooms run by Spanish firms in Cuba.

The executive vice president for Exceltur, a Spanish tourist professionals association, Jose Luis Zoreda, sees an "immense world" of business opportunities for Spain emerging from the Cuban opening.

Most of the tourists visiting Cuba come from Canada, Germany and Britain, but a sizable number also come from Venezuela, Mexico and Spain.

It is also expected that the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana will benefit Spanish and European exports to the island, according to the president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Jose Luis Bonet.

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