Cuba presents new challenge

| 02/04/2009

(CNS): With the tourism industry already struggling in the face of the global recession, the Cayman Islands now faces a new challenge with the awakening of what Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford has called a sleeping giant. With the impending removal of the travel embargo on the country by the US, Clifford said it is a case of not “if” but rather “when” US restrictions will end and Cayman is preparing to compete, and there were opportunities for Cayman to seize in a newly opened Cuba.

“In the PPM manifesto, the government sets out its policy to continue to focus on the North American market using strategic and innovative programmes while simultaneously increasing marketing activities in other markets, such as Europe, in order to mitigate the impact of the lifting of US sanctions against Cuba, which we predicted was inevitable in as few as 4 to 8 years’ time,” Clifford stated.

He said given the latest announcement from the US White House and Congress, the projections may have been prophetic. He added that the government has been steadfastly preparing to compete. “In the past 3½ years, the Cayman Islands’ approach has been to engage the market to seek solutions which lessen the extent of our reliance upon the US as a source market,” the Minister noted.

These solutions include continuing to grow markets in Europe and Canada, pursuing twin island tourism with Cuba and researching new source markets in places such as South America, he explained. With these secondary markets already open to Cuba the focus is a way of gradually lessening Cayman’s dependence on the US market.  He said the average growth in the last three years from the Canadian market has been approximately 21% and in Europe 17%.

“The DoT, with local consultants Deloitte, is also presently conducting research into the viability of South America as a secondary market. The results of this research will be available in a few months,” Clifford said, adding that Cayman Airways was looking to expand into this market as well. He also said CAL could partner with European-based airlines to provide twin-island vacations via existing CAL routes, including Havana.

“An important step in realising this is Cayman Airways’ plans to offer e-ticketing to travellers via Cuba which is expected to be in place within a month,” he said. “Most recently, Cayman Airways participated in air service negotiations between the UK and Cuban authorities which increased the airline’s frequency rights to Havana from 3 weekly to 7 weekly.  Before this extension of rights, CAL only had rights to 3 scheduled flights per week and had to operate the remaining 4 frequencies to Havana on a charter basis. 

"The approval to increase our scheduled frequency offers the airline greater security on this route.  During these negotiations, CAL also obtained the ability to operate charter service to any city in Cuba.  This allows CAL favourable positioning to respond to future demand.”

The implications to Cayman’s cruise product could be far more reaching than for the overnight as the cruise lines will be eager to add Cuba ports of call to their itinararies — possibly replacing Cayman. CNS has contacted the Florida Cruise Association and three of the major cruise lines that use Cayman regularly. However, none of them have yet offered any comment on their future plans regarding the neighbouring island.

Clifford, however, said Cayman could stand to benefit from the opening of Cuban ports rather that suffer,but it would be some time before Cuba was in a position to receive significant cruise numbers. He explained that during meetings with cruise lines they have said that despite the fact that Cuba has many natural ports, the infrastructure and systems will still need development.

“As such, there will be a transition period,” he said. “Ultimately, when Cuba reopens and any new major itineraries are launched, islands in close proximity to Cuba, like the Cayman Islands, stand to benefit. Cruise executives have previously advised that there are at present no plans to create a complete ‘Cuban itinerary’ akin to their ‘Alaskan itinerary’, rather the cruise lines envisioned itineraries with multiple stops in Cuba, as well as stops in neighbouring islands.”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is hardly a surprise that this day would come. What is surprising is that we aren’t prepared for this eventuality. We should have a long time ago secured our tourist industry as a superior product, we have not!

    Grand Cayman is a smaller, more expensive version of South Beach .  We have for a long time marketed our Islands incorrectly. We do not need cruise ship berths! We need stay over guests!

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the people who make all the rules think people will flock to Cuba cause they have not been there or it will be a ideal little place that time forgot.. might it not be a good idea for Gov. and Cayman Air to maybe start promoting the sister islands, they are small, places time forgot and surprise surprise, the money stays in Cayman.. Cuba will be a bust,,, people will go for sure, but they will find crime, pandering, expensive hotel stays. crap food and most of all  tooooo many people.. Kinda starting to sound like one of our islands…minus the sex trade. which by the way will bring the most amount of crime in..  If Cayman would get rid of the crime, welcome its visitors with the same friendlyness it used to do that kept people coming back here for years and promote the beautiful things that are here.. most would not even think of going to Cuba..

     Im not saying all places are like this but in my 20+ years of coming to the Caymans year after year, I can say I sure dont feel as welcome as I used to be. Between the horrific experence that Cayman Air is and the general unfriendleyness these days it sure leaves the ball in the air..

     Do a better job Cayman of doing what you were famous for and you will keep your customer base.. and are you kidding, two island holidays?? get real.. You cant even orginize trips to the sisters let alone cuba…

     I still put my bet on Cayman, Mark my words on this one.. it will be the Little Islands that have been thrown out to the wolfs that will win the day.. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.. There what is left of the real Cayman..

  3. noname says:

    The USA embargo of Cuba was initiated in 1962, so those 30-40 year olds you spoke of were hardly small kids!

    • whodatis says:

      Dear Anonymous,

      You replied to my comment with:

      "The USA embargo of Cuba was initiated in 1962, so those 30-40 year olds you spoke of were hardly small kids!"


      Are you pleased with yourself? Is that really how you considered it best to reply to what I had to say?!

      Obviously I was dealing with approximations all around as it related to the subject matter.

      I swear, some people just seem to get off on themselves.


      Now…if you have anything useful to add to the discussion by all means, lay it down.

      If not then kindly STFU!!




  4. whodatis says:

    !! Viva Cuba !!

    Don’t you people get it?!

    The appeal of Cuba as a tourist destination is not primarily based upon its "value for money", or "attractions", or art, culture and architecture!!

    It is on the mere fact that Americans have been BANNED from going there for decades!

    Do you realize that the average 30-40 year old Americans were mere kids at best at the time of the actual rift of the 2 nations, furthermore, the vast majority of them have never agreed with the USA’s political stance against Cuba.

    Too many of you appeaar to be way over the hill or perhaps harbour a viewpoint that most definitely is.

    MANY Americans in the 40 and under age bracket adore and respect Cuba / Castro for standing up for what he believed in and for kicking the A** of the CIA as they attempted time and again to carry out the despicable acts as they did in other Latin American countries such as Nicaragua, Argentina, El Salvador etc.!!

    The world is awake folks, and the false front of morality that the imperial USA displays is crumbling or has altogether fallen to pieces.

    What happened in Venezuela with Chavez’s so called "resignation" – another USA supported attack on democracy in a foreign land – has struck into the hearts and minds of Americans and many other young people all over the world.

    Let me put it this way…over the years I’ve seen far more young people wearing a "Castro" or a "Che" t-shirt than I have seen wearing a "George Bush" or "Queen Elizabeth" t-shirt – this speaks volumes in my book!

    Wake up people – and quit trying to rationalize your arguments with application of the same old calculations…this is an entirely different ballgame!

    Viva Cuba!!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Twyla, Cuba has lots of open land, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, etc.  Cayman does not have that.  you said, "Alot of nice fresh fruits and vegetables, not like our quality, but free from insecticides."  Hello???  "free from insecticides"???  That does make it better quality.  Insecticides cause cancer.  "free from insecticides" means organic and very healthy for you.

    When Cuba opens up, there will be much competition to make cheap prices toattract tourism in bulk.  It will happen.

    Some of the wealthy business people here in Cayman already are in planning with Cuba to create hotels and watersports over there.  And other wealhty business people from around the world are too.  There will be so much new hotels, watersports, entertainment, etc that will pop up quickly once the embargo is lifted.  The business people are already preparing.  Like runners waiting for the gun to go off to run the race, they are in the starting boxes ready to run the race!  The race for greed of course!

    So, you see, even some Caymanian wealthy business owners here will go and help to attract tourists to Cuba by investing in Tourism business in Cuba, which lessens the amount of Tourists that will come here.  Why?  Because as long as they can make money doing it, they don’t care about the rest of us here in Cayman as long as their pockets are growing.

    I say the Cayman Government should go and invest in Cuba and bring the profits back here to Cayman, how about that?  "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t we reduce our prices to comptete wtih other Jurisdications.  We should fill up the planes, have seat sales and run specials at the last minute. Also, offer special packages like other jursidications. We have so much to offer so we should be marketing it! 

  7. Anonymous says:

    Double Gooble Speak!

    Cuba presents “new” challenges–where has everyone been for the last 10 years?

    “strategic and innovative programmes”–what programmes?? Nothing this Minister has suggested has been either “strategic” nor “innovative” when it comes to Cuba. Adding flights to Cuba when there will be no need to come here in the first place is total nonsense. The idea that tourist visiting Cuba will come to Cayman to dive is insanity, given their tourism demographics.

    Charles Clifford has been more concerned with McKeeva and his own “pretty looks” than in tourism. And what about his “Go East” initiative…still just an initiative (oh yes, I forgot..some cabanas “to come” on the beach so you can get your hair braided on the Bodden Town Beach) That really adds value to Caymanians!

    But let us not be too surprised however…we need people in charge of these ministries that are not just plucked from the Police service or elsewhere. Let us choose people that have the integrity not to lie to the public until the Governor had to have an inquiry! We need leaders not Ministers that constantly travel at our expense. We need to have a clean sweep on May 20th and please do not put back the Parties…this 4 year cycle of alternative “feasting at the picnic table” must stop, only Caymanians are the ones losing.

  8. Twyla M Vargas says:


    iT IS most disheartening to read and listen to many who make negative comments concerning the opening of Cuba against the cayman stability.   Most of those persons have visited Cuba for a weekend trick.

    As I have said before Cuba has much to offer, depending on what you are looking for.  Last year, I spent 5 months in Cuba, 3 moths the year before and 1 month already in this year.   I am definately a culture lover, art lover.  I have received much experience in my work of an Artisan by spending these ties in Cuba.    

       Anyone tell you that Cuba is cheap, is not telling you the truth.  One Cayman Dollar is equal to one CUC Cuban dollar.  Cuba enjoys two Currency.  The CUC that I call the Tourist dollar and the cuban peso which is used by the Cuban people.   Me and you cannot use this money because it values nothing, and you receive nothing for it.

      If you rent an apartment in Cuba you pay the same that you pay here, only you get more for your money here whereby ours come with  kitchen.   A Bici-Taxi in Cuba is the same cost as taking the bus..   Eating at a good restaurant is definately not cheap.  Considering our quality of food, steaks, chicken, and all the trimmings,  in comparison, ours is much cheaper if you want quality.    If you take a shower, you will wish you were in Cayman.    Cuba has good doctors but not sufficient medication.    Alot of nice fresh fruits and vegetables, not like our quality, but free from insecticides.   Only Havana  city is ready for visitors.  To me the other parts of Cuba is just the way Christopher Columbus left it.  But thats  is what about  Cuba  that I love. 

    Cayman may loose in tourist visitors the first couple of weeks that Cuba Opens, but after that when everyone has seen what they want to see the thrill will be over,……………………………………… unless we find a GOOD reason to want to be there..  If you think you are smart against a Cuban, you are wrong.      Many will visit Cuba for a weekend or a week and comeback with lots of exciting tales. …………………  This experience is not only told by Caymanians, but by all nations, Europe, USA, Canada, China and the list can go on.    It can be alot of fun, if you have a lot of money to burn and time to waste.    So I would say life is all about taking chances, be adventuresome, it is all about what makes you tick,……………But do not loose your family by loosing your head.    This can be very easy in Cuba.  Blessed

  9. Anonymous says:

    Of course Chuckie never saw it coming!

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman Islands, once the embargo is lifted our very livilihood will be threatened.  Cuba poses serious competition to these islands.  For those of you whowish for the days of  islands that time forgot,, you  will soon get  your wish quicker than you know. People will forget us and travel to Cuba who have so much more to offer. 

      God have mercy on our souls. Our two pillars of  commerce, banking and tourism , are under  direct threat.  That;s why this election is so important.j  Our tourism  and banking products are  best managed under the leadeship of the UDP.