If you’re from Eastern Canada, chances are that at some point in your travelling life, while looking for a cheap winter escape to ‘someplace warm’, your travel agent listed Cuba as one of only a handful of options that came anywhere near your intended budget. Okay, let’s be honest, it was always at the top of the ‘cheapest’ list and we loved it.
Whether you were a cash-strapped student on your first ‘all inclusive vacation’ or returning to the familiarity of a beautiful beach, genuine people and modest resorts that never really blew anyone’s mind but simply fit the bill of cheap n’ cheerful, Canadians fell in love with Cuba and its grossly affordable price tag.
Friends, by all accounts and predictions, I’m sad to report that those days will soon come to an end.
The inevitable American invasion, a pending tour operator currency surcharge and our slumping Canadian dollar has created a near-perfect storm due to make landfall in the next few months, sure to drive prices way up.
So, just how much more expensive will a trip to Cuba be? Well, some have pegged the pending increase to be about 25%, while some have it higher but everyone agrees that the cheap Cuban vacation, as we know it, is about to go the way of the dodo bird.
As Cuba’s tourism sector renegotiates its wholesale contracts on hotel rooms, cruise line port charges and airport landing fees with foreign (including Canadian) airlines, hoteliers, cruise lines and tour operators that package the aforementioned, bargaining will be done with the upcoming growth firmly in mind and in U.S. dollars.
Armed with a newfound demand, Cuba will soon be short on supply. The amount of hotel rooms the country currently has will need to grow exponentially and the trickle down will affect necessary growth in everything from infrastructure to food supply, making the country costlier to visit on the whole for everyone.
Earlier this summer, as the stars and stripes were raised over the newly reopened American Embassy in Havana, so were the hopes of American airlines and hotel chains, cruise lines looking for new ports to develop and call on, car rental companies and many other service oriented businesses looking to expand into a new holiday business market.
After operating charter flights to Cuba for the past 25 years, American Airlines announced this week that it is ready to offer regular scheduled service to the soon-to-be accessible island. Chomping at the profitable bit too are United Airlines, Southwest and JetBlue. It is all now just a short waiting game.
Currently, charter flights operate to Havana from Miami, Tampa and New York City but loads still consist mainly of Cuban Americans visiting family in their motherland. Once the ball really gets rolling and the number of U.S. gateways to Cuba expands to include Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and others, planes will be full of more than just Cuban Americans but of curious American tourists looking to spend in the only Caribbean island to recently elude their reach. In 2014, without full touristic permission, almost 100,000 Americans already visited Cuba and estimates have that figure set to almost double this year.
And it won’t just be Americans that will soon outnumber Canadians at resorts around the country. Cuba has eased restrictions on its own people too and since 2008, has allowed Cubans to occupy resorts that in the past have been off limits, allowing only foreigners as guests.
Financed, for the most part, by family living and working abroad who send money back home, Cuban citizens have been flocking to their native beaches and resorts in droves and are now second only to Canadians staying in properties in Varadero, Cuba’s leading resort town. Last year alone, 1.2 million Cubans used this new found luxury and checked-in to a Cuban resort, up 23% from the previous year.
The possible return of the U.S. dollar as tourist currency on the island isn’t out of the question either. Even after the U.S. imposed embargo closed Cuba off to Americans for more than half a century, the island’s use of the trusty green-back remained. Canadians, Europeans, South Americans and anyone else visiting the island would all use it locally to purchase any tourist related goods and services.
A decade or so ago, Cuba finally began to phase out the then-enemy currency, using the Cuban Convertible Peso (equivalent to the U.S. dollar in value) in its place. With relations more than lukewarm again, the U.S. dollar may make a big comeback on the island, helped by Cuba’s 2013 decision to scrap the Cuban Convertible Peso and gradually unify it with the lower-valued Cuban Peso that’s used by the locals.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Sure, it’ll all cost more for visitors but our first-world problem isn’t without reward. With the doors wide open to Americans, expect Cuba’s standards across the board to increase as well. Imagine Cuba and its resorts without the shortcomings often encountered currently; with water for a shower for the entire week you are there. Imagine restaurants with all the ingredients they need to prepare a flavourful meal; imagine options.
But most importantly, the average Cuban citizen too should benefit and experience a better quality of life. With more small business opportunities and freedoms, those living in the up and coming 'it' spot should see some return. It will all depend on Cuba’s domestic policy, of course, but paying more to visit Cuba would taste much better if we knew everyone will be sharing the wealth.
While it will never rival the price-tag of a week in Bermuda or Barbados, Cuba’s days as the cheapest Caribbean vacation option are numbered. For anyone who hasn’t been or would like to experience Autentica Cuba before America’s influence, on the cheap for one last time, I can only suggest to book a cuba vacation … Vamos!
Take advantage of rock-bottom pricing on Cuba vacation packages today. All inclusive resorts throughout Cuba are on sale now with Flight Centre. Call us at 1877 967 5302 or come visit us at a Flight Centre store location near you.