Thursday, July 29, 2010

British Cruises

Cuba libre for British cruise ships

Mirror.co.uk (blog) - July 20

By John Honeywell

It's all very well our American cousins beginning to get excited about the possibility of Congress lifting the ban on US citizens travelling to Cuba.

Even if the 47-year-old law is repealed this year, it could be some time before the island develops the facilities capable of meeting the needs of an influx of cruise passengers, according to MSC president Rick Sasso, in an interview in the Palm Beach Daily News spotted by my colleague Jane Archer.

"Right now, they lack the infrastructure and facilities to handle the huge influx of vessels and visitors," said Sasso, who is chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association.

"It'll probably take one, two or maybe three years before the necessary developments are completed. Lots of work has to be done. We also have to be sure there'll be no political backlash."

But Sasso, who has been a senior figure in the cruise industry for a generation and was one of the founders of Celebrity Cruises, seems to be forgetting one thing - the ban applies only to US citizens, and British cruise ships have had Cuban ports on their itineraries for some time.

Fred Olsen's Braemar is a regular visitor, and will be calling at Havana on a number of cruises from November, and through 2011 and 2012, usually for an overnight stay in the island's capital. Santiago de Cuba, in the south of the island, will be another Braemar desgtination in 2012, and Boudicca will be visiting Cuba during a 35-night voyage from Southampton and back in January 2012.

Thomson Dream will be a regular visitor to Havana this winter. The ship is scheduled for a multi-million upgrade in dry-dock at the end of the summer season in the Mediterranean, and after a brief visit to Southampton will be heading across the Atlantic to spend winter in the Caribbean.

Havana will be a turn-round port for Dream, so passengers will be able to spend extra time in the Cuban capital at the beginning or end of their cruise.

And I'm sure they will be able to tell Mr Sasso - and the rest of the American cruise industry - that the Cuban experience is more enjoyable now than it will be after the island develops the infrastructure he thinks it will need to meet the demands of US passengers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bahaman Perspective on Cuba Opening

Bahamas Should Brace For Travel Ban Lift

By NIKIA DEVEAUX

The Bahamas, and other Caribbean countries that depend heavily on tourism, should begin to prepare for the possibility of the decades-long ban on United States citizens travelling to Cuba being lifted, according to economists in the region.

With The Bahamas being said to have the highest level of dependence on U.S. tourists in the Caribbean, it is considered the most vulnerable to the effects of the ban being lifted.

The latest statistics show that 80.5 per cent of the country’s stopover visitors in 2008 came from the United States.

Before the trade and travel embargo was imposed in 1962 after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba had been the "playground for" U.S. tourists and the largest recipient of American visitors to the region.

After the embargo, tourism in the neighbouring Caribbean countries, like The Bahamas, surged.

Noted Jamaican economist and former Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board Dennis Morrison recently published an article in a Jamaica daily warning Caribbean countries to take the possibility of a lift very seriously.

He said various studies suggest that Cuba’s tourist arrivals would surge to full capacity at the expense of other Caribbean destinations.

"The low travel costs from the U.S. is seen as one of the major factors that would spur the shift in visitor traffic, but the effect of short-run supply constraints in Cuba’s tourist industry is less clear," said Mr. Morrison.

Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace has said on numerous occasions that the country’s proximity advantage to the U.S. is canceled out by the cost to fly here.

In the case of the Family Islands, he noted that it is time consuming to fly here from several states when compared to destinations which are much further away.

The economist made mention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Working Paper published in July 2008 "Vacation Over: Implications for the Caribbean of Opening US-Cuba Tourism," which suggests it is likely that pressure on Cuba’s capacity would lead to a shift in tourist traffic from European and other developed countries to neighbouring Caribbean countries.

The paper also pointed to the possibility, depending on the timing or pace of Cuba-U.S. tourism liberalisation, that Cuba could seek to hold on to non-U.S. visitors even while preparing to attract increased U.S. arrivals.

"Neighbouring tourist destinations, especially the ones that are heavily dependent on the U.S. [like The Bahamas] would lose the most if they are not prepared for the change. Because of the scope for increased U.S. tourists to Cuba and the possibility that non-U.S. tourists would be redirected to neighbouring countries, the study anticipates that total Caribbean arrivals could increase by up to 11 per cent," Mr. Morrison said.

A committee of the United States House of Representatives voted last Wednesday to reverse the restrictions on Cuba.

Economists and political pundits throughout the region believe the vote by the Agriculture Committee on a bill which covered restrictions on travel and the sale of American commodities to Cuba could be the first step towards Congressional approval to lift the longest trade embargo in recent history.

"Though there has been talk of such a move for some time, the strong, pro-embargo, Cuban-American lobby has managed to stall efforts in the U.S. Congress to ease travel restrictions and was supported by the threat of a presidential veto under President George W. Bush," Mr. Morrison said in the article.

"Relying on the stalemate to keep competition from Cuba at bay, Caribbean policymakers and the industry in the region have yet to lay out a plan of action to manage the consequences of a post-embargo era, giving lip service instead, while carrying on business as usual."

The proposed Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which must still pass the Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees before being voted on by the full House of Representatives and then by the Senate, is being pushed as part of the drive to boost U.S. exports.

Several powerful business and farming groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are throwing their support behind the bill.

It has also attracted some Republican support.

The interest in the bill comes after the Obama administration lifted travel restrictions last year, on Cuban-Americans with family members in Cuba.


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My comment:

http://www.jonesbahamas.com/news/136/

Dear NIKIA DEVEAUX,

It is up to the chairs of the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees whether their committees act on the Cuba trade and travel bill. Both chairmen, Representatives Howard Berman and Barney Frank, support the legislation and could allow the bill to go directly to the House floor after the current July 4th recess.

The whole House could vote in July and the Senate as early as September, or after the mid-term US elections in November.

Limits on Cuban tourism infrastructure capacity could make joint destination travel an attractive option for Bahamas resorts and transiting airlines.

More here http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs080/1101047693478/archive/1103535872272.html

John McAuliff
Travel Industry Network on Cuba
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

A Jamaican Perspective on Impact of Opening Cuba

Warning signs from US on Cuba
Published: Sunday | July 4, 2010
Jamaica Gleaner

Dennis Morrison, Contributor

Caribbean tourist destinations which have benefited from the decades-long ban on United States citizens travelling to Cuba, should take as a serious warning, the vote, last Wednesday, by a committee of the United States House of Representatives to reverse these restrictions. The vote by the Agriculture Committee on a bill which covered restrictions on travel and the sale of American commodities could be the first step towards Congressional approval of the lifting of what is the most enduring trade embargo in modern history.

Though there has been talk of such a move for some time, the strong, pro-embargo, Cuban-American lobby has managed to stall efforts in the US Congress to ease travel restrictions and were supported by the threat of a presidential veto under President George W. Bush. Relying on the stalemate to keep competition from Cuba at bay, Caribbean policymakers and the industry in the region have yet to lay out a plan of action to manage the consequences of a post-embargo era, giving lip service instead, while carrying on business as usual.

The proposed Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which must still pass the Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees before being voted on by the full House of Representatives and then by the Senate - a tall order - is being pushed as part of the drive to boost US exports. The bill is supported by several powerful business and farming groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, and has attracted some Republican support. It comes after the Obama administration lifted travel restrictions last year, on Cuban-Americans with family members in Cuba.

Playground for US tourists

Prior to the trade and travel embargo which was imposed in 1962 and '63 in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, Cuba had been the playground for US tourists and was by far the largest recipient of American visitors to the region. Jamaica was a major beneficiary of the diversion of the tourist traffic, experiencing rapid growth after 1963, while other destinations such as the Dominican Republic, CancĂșn, and The Bahamas also surged. These destinations, together with Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, The Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Belize, today attract the bulk of US visitors to the region.

The results of various studies of the likely impact on the Caribbean of the lifting of the US travel ban suggest that Cuba's tourist arrivals would surge to full capacity at the expense of other Caribbean destinations. The low travel costs from the US is seen as one of the major factors that would spur the shift in visitor traffic, but the effect of short-run supply constraints in Cuba's tourist industry is less clear. According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Working Paper published in July 2008 [Vacation Over: Implications for the Caribbean of Opening US-Cuba Tourism], it is likely that pressure on Cuba's capacity would lead to a shift in tourist traffic from European and other developed countries to neighbouring Caribbean countries.

It also pointed to the possibility, depending on the timing or pace of Cuba-US tourism liberalisation, that Cuba could seek to hold on to non-US visitors even while preparing to attract increased US arrivals. Neighbouring tourist destinations, especially the ones that are heavily dependent on the US [like Jamaica] would lose the most if they are not prepared for the change. Because of the scope for increased US tourists to Cuba and the possibility that non-US tourists would be redirected to neighbouring countries, the study anticipates that total Caribbean arrivals could increase by up to 11 per cent.

Most vulnerable

Apart from Puerto Rico and The US Virgin Islands, the most heavily dependent Caribbean destinations on the US and the most vulnerable should the legislation to lift the travel ban be passed include, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, CancĂșn, Bermuda, Jamaica and Belize. The Bahamas has the highest level of dependence, with 80.5 per cent of their stopover visitors in 2008 coming from the United States. The Cayman Islands was slightly less at 79.3 per cent, and CancĂșn at 77.6 per cent.

Of the big players, the Dominican Republic would be by far the least vulnerable, as it has a highly diversified tourism market with only 27.4 per cent of its stopover visitors in 2008 coming from the US. Europeans accounted for 34 per cent, Canadians 16 per cent, and others 26 per cent. Antigua, Barbados, and St Lucia also have highly diversified markets with dependence on the US at less than 40 per cent in each case.

Jamaica, with 65 per cent, would be highly exposed. While Jamaica has reduced its dependence on the US market from over 70 per cent in recent years by doubling Canada's share of our visitor arrivals to 15.9 per cent in 2009, we have hardly moved the needle in Europe. This will require a broadening of our marketing activities and deepening of the partnerships with European investors that have entered the local tourist industry since 2001.

An early lifting of the US travel ban may not happen, but we should be anticipating change. Success in managing the increased competition that would accompany such a move will require accelerated improvements in Jamaica's tourism product. These must cover accommodation, but more important will be those things that contribute to positive visitor experience - public order, attractions that showcase our cultural heritage and natural assets, world-class entertainment, and so. These are the aspects of visitor experience that will give Cuba an edge when the lifting of the restrictions begins.

Dennis Morrison is an economist. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com.


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My comment

It is not necessary for the travel and trade bill to go to two other committees (Foreign Affairs and Financial Services). The chairmen, Howard Berman and Barney Frank, support the legislation and can waive mark-up by their committees.

The whole House could vote in July and the Senate as early as September, or after the mid-term US elections in November.

Limits on Cuban tourism infrastructure capacity could make joint destination travel an attractive option for Jamaican resorts and the airline.