Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Will Cuba Start A Cultural Tourism Revolution In The Caribbean?

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Resonance Report
By Chris Fair
Cuba, the destination that’s just now coming into sharp focus for American travelers, is already the leading cultural destination in the Caribbean. Home to an astonishing 22 percent of all cultural attractions in the region, Cuba ranks first overall for culture in the Resonance 2016 Caribbean Tourism Quality Index. It’s the second year that Cuba has topped the culture rankings in the report.

Judging by the numbers, Cuba’s culture is key to its appeal among travelers. In all, the island welcomed more than 3.5 million visitors in 2015, a 17 percent jump relative to last year, the highest growth rate in the Caribbean. And in 2016, visitor arrivals are not slowing down. U.S. leisure travel alone to Cuba nearly doubled in 2015 to more than 160,000 visitors.

The Resonance 2016 Caribbean Tourism Quality Index shows that Cuba ranks third overall and first for culture relative to the total number of quality attractions. To measure the cultural experience in a destination, Resonance analyzed the quantity of very good and excellent recommendations on TripAdvisor in the categories of museums and shows & performances. This includes attractions such as history museums, art galleries, concerts and theatre shows.


Cuba’s cultural strength, coupled with its tourism growth, may help attract a new, more culturally-oriented traveler to the region, potentially even creating an increased demand for more cultural offerings throughout the Caribbean. The region is already culturally rich: while Cuba is home to nine of the 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the region, the Caribbean offers extraordinary experiences of culture, music, language and history.

The Citadel, Sans Souci and Ramiers in Haiti, Bridgetown in Barbados, and the City of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic are a rather enjoyable reminder of a colonial past, the trade of sugar and enslaved ancestors. In the eastern Caribbean, Guadeloupe’s new Memorial ACTe opened in July 2015 in Pointe-à-Pitre to commemorate the history of the slave trade in the region. Add to that the ephemeral culture of music and food, and the Caribbean becomes ever more compelling for a category of travelers who don’t care for the beach.


Culture takes many forms in Cuba. Cuban music, personified by the Buena Vista Social Club and many other ensembles, has seized the popular imagination and been enjoyed across the world. Music flows in the blood of all Cubans, and music education is integral. Generations have been marked by the baseball and boxing achievements of athletes like Téofilo Stevenson and Luis Tiant. And Cuba offers a rich historical culture: museums like the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and the Museo de la Revolucion are hubs for tourists interested in the Cuba they know and the Cuba they don’t. The museums are rated two of the most popular cultural sites in the Caribbean in the report. Visitors also embrace Cuban food culture, a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean influences.

Culinary experiences represent an important part of the Cuban experience - they’re approximately 60 percent of all attractions compared to 42 percent in the Caribbean overall. Ironically, Cuban home cuisine has been one of the biggest challenges of daily life for island natives. Cuban cooks have to be agile, thrifty and lucky, making good use of both the state-issued monthly ration book and a reliable roster of black-market traders. Now, steaks and spices are imported for tourist hotels. Can fresh and local be far behind?


While Cuba has 22 percent of all cultural attractions in the Caribbean, that only represents 6.2 percent of the country’s tourism mix. Visitors are also attracted by Cuba’s wide variety of other experiences, from Havana’s cigar factories to idyllic beach escapes, Cuba’s skateboarding scene to folklórico dance, and revolutionary heritage to ebullient festivals. Cuba is a cultural destination, a quiet stroll, and an old-school cool. In many ways, it may also be the future of Caribbean tourism.

To learn more about how other Caribbean destinations performed in 2015, as well as results in categories of culinary, sightseeing, sports & adventure, entertainment, and hotels & lodging, enjoy your free download of the Resonance 2016 Caribbean Tourism Quality Index.

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