The world’s largest cruise shipping company, Carnival Corp, says it has received approval from the United States government to offer trips to Cuba from Miami.The company said it was still seeking clearance from the Cuban government but the trips could start early next year.
Cruise lines aren’t the only ones capitalizing on the recent and ongoing thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The first commercial flights to Havana are scheduled to depart from Orlando, Florida as early as this Wednesday.Unsurprisingly, the sudden abundance of travel opportunities are accompanied by the expansion of various U.S. businesses to the island, namely the room-sharing service, Airbnb. Valued at $20 billion, Airbnb has capitalized on recent legislation allowing entrepreneurship by Cuban citizens.As Walter Russell Mead wrote when President Obama announced the diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba in December, what the Castros really want is the money but not the liberalization that goes with it. Tourist dollars from New York, si, new business owners from Miami, no—or the expat community could buy the island back from under them in a heartbeat. Whether they will be able to maintain that balance long-term is still open to question, but “more yanqui tourist dollars and a carefully hedged and limited uptick in trade will help stave off the worst and buy time for a government that, one suspects, isn’t sure what to do next.”Also important to U.S. interests in the region are the effects that Cuba’s new market for tourism will have on the economies of its Caribbean neighbors. To quote WRM again:
If Cuba really does open up to U.S. tourism, expect other Caribbean destinations to suffer. The Caribbean tourist industry has been built on the assumption that Cuba is closed to American tourism. Jamaica and other countries could face real problems if a re-opened Cuba changes the dynamics—as it almost certainly will.
Now, many countries in the Caribbean will be facing competition in an industry that is their single greatest source of revenue. Americans may be excited to finally be able to smoke a local cigar in Havana, but the other implications of our recent decision bear watching.