A view of a beach in Varadero, Cuba (PHOTO: Courtesy of POINT2CUBA)
SOME Jamaicans have expressed concern about what warming relations between the United States and Cuba may mean for Jamaica and its economy, but Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President William Mahfood sees opportunity where others see threat.
The opening up of Cuba represents a great opportunity for the Jamaican private sector rather than a threat, Mahfood said in a discussion with the Jamaica Observer on Monday.
“It is a big opportunity for Jamaica,” Mahfood said, because Cuba is lagging behind in several areas, including services which are “not yet ready”. He noted that the PSOJ has been exploring the possibilities of entering the market and sent a representative on a recent JAMPRO exploratory tour to Jamaica’s closest neighbour.
Fast-moving Jamaican companies involved in certain service areas have a great opportunity, “but if you get caught napping” others will benefit, Mahfood warned.
One of the faster-moving companies could be financial
and food conglomerate GraceKennedy (GK), which is planning to penetrate the Cuban market with La Fe — its recently acquired US-based Latino brand of food products.
“When Cuba opens up, GK [will be in a] position through our La Fe brand to enter Cuba,” GK Chief Executive Don Wehby was quoted as saying to shareholders in last week’s Caribbean Business Report.
But while all sectors that come in contact with the outside world may need to have their services improved, one industry in particular can benefit from Jamaican know-how, Mahfood said. “The tourism sector is a sure thing.”
Jamaica is widely considered to have developed a higher level of service than Cuba’s tourism industry — with the Cuban product considered to be more basic and less atuned to more upmarket tourism.
Even so, the socialist republic is well ahead of Jamaica in tourist arrivals and was growing at a faster rate in 2014. Jamaica had a total of 2.08 million stopover arrivals in 2014 — a growth rate of 3.6 per cent. That compared to three million stopover arrivals for Cuba — a growth rate of 5.3 per cent according to the recently published 2014 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica (ESSJ).
Cuba previously relied on markets outside of the US for the bulk of its tourism. But now that US citizens have recently had some restrictions against travelling to Cuba lifted by their Government, Cuba has been recieiving an influx of visitors from the new US market.
While Cuba received relatively few American tourists in 2014, the vast majority of Jamaica’s stopover tourists came from the US market – a total of 62.3 per cent or 1.3 million, according to the ESSJ report.
Published Date: June 5th, 2015