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Is Canada's love affair with Cuba coming to an end?
Canadians and Cuba. It’s been the perfect Caribbean love affair. Every winter thousands of Albertans trade farmer tans and snowy landscapes for icy mojitos and pure white sandscapes.
In fact, 40% of all tourists visiting Cuba last year wore a maple leaf on their passports. That’s 1.2 million plane tickets and more awkward salsa dancers than you can shake a hockey stick at. But now that U.S. airlines are loading up their drink carts and bidding for the 110 available daily flights from American hubs, is Canada’s love affair with Cuba coming to a natural end?
“We’ve seen a big rush of Albertans wanting to explore Cuba before the Americans come in,” says AMA Travel’s Director of Sales, Nikola Berube. “Havana is a cultural treasure and Cuba is such a safe, friendly country to explore. There’s a sense that once the American tourist market heats up, things could change quickly.”
From September 2015 to March 2016, AMA Travel has seen a 50% increase in travel to Cuba, compared to the same period the year before. That trend is likely to continue in the near future as Canadians politely push to the front of the line to take advantage of some of the most affordable all-inclusive packages to sun destinations.
Next year it might not be so easy.
“Americans are fascinated with the history, the cars, the music, maybe even the cigars,” laughs Berube. “It’s projected that up to 1.5 million Americans will visit Cuba next year and that will have a deep impact on Canadian travelers. There’s only so much hotel inventory, and we may see less direct flights and discounted, last-minute packages.”
The pristine beaches of Cayo Coco and Varadero remain a top draw for Albertans escaping the grey skies of a mild Canadian winter, but destinations like Jamaica and Dominican Republic are chomping at the bit to win snowbirds over. That’s if the cruise ships don’t get them first.
“That’s really one of the best options right now for sun seekers. The cruise business is booming and we have deals for Caribbean cruises as low as $100 CAD per day,” says Berube. “The port destinations are amazing, the ships are luxurious, and – let’s be honest now – the food is way better.”
Discover 9 things you should know before travelling to Cuba on the AMA blog. If you’d like to interview an AMA Travel expert, email the AMA Newsroom or call 1-888-960-6397.