Cuban Spotlight: Is Havana the next hotspot for Incentive Travel programs?

Seasoned travel planners are constantly on the lookout for the latest and greatest travel hotspot for Incentive Travel destinations.  Recent years have shown that since many recipients of these programs are well travelled, the expectation has shifted from a predictable vacation itinerary to an experiential journey.  With President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will begin taking steps to normalize their relationship, travel to The Pearl of the Antilles is suddenly on everyone’s radar.

Fun in the sun incentives remain a top choice for companies looking to motivate and reward their partners, and although planners have their choice of exotic island locations to choose from, Havana is added to the short list of locations that are easy to get to and less than 100 miles from our own coast.

With tourism to the island minimal since the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the U.S. imposed travel restrictions that followed, there are a limited number of high-end resorts and hotels for new travellers to consider.  This may work to Cuba’s advantage though, making the island even more of an exclusive destination and driving the desire to bask on the pristine beaches immensely.  The small, secluded island of Cayo Coco is already regarded as one of the best places to snorkel in the vicinity and presumably, this and a number of other resort towns in Cuba, will be met with the challenge of quickly accommodating an influx of visitors.

Cuba offers a variety of landscapes and biodiversity on the archipelago.  Although the beach towns are an obvious draw for tourists, the romantic history, rich heritage and apparent time warp of the cities are equally as enthralling.  Along with the capital city of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad hold some of the most eye-catching glimpses of Cuban history on the island.  Cobblestone streets, colorful houses and perfectly preserved sugar mills from the turn of the century make it as though Cuba went to sleep and never woke up.  Cuba’s bounty of natural attractions, paired with some of the most ardent conservation practices in the world, make it one of the best ecotourism destinations in the Caribbean.  From the beaches of Varadero, the UNESCO Heritage Site of Cienfuegos, breathtaking waterfalls in Holguin and the lush vegetation and brilliant white sand of Guardalavaca, Cuba is sure to see tourists flock to the island that previously were unable to do so.

Although travelling to Cuba for general tourism is not yet approved by our Congress, professionals in the industry are gearing up so that when the market does fully open, they can be among the first to offer the stunning Cuban culture to their clients.  We immediately saw Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airway and American Airlines publically show interest in adding regular flights to Havana.  Both MasterCard and American Express have stated that once the Obama administration lifts the ban on U.S. banks doing business there, they will happily begin accepting credit and debit card transactions from the country.   Conveniences allowing travelers to now take $10,000 with them when they travel make it easier for Incentive trips to become a viable option.

We will watch closely as this continues to unfold.  As tales of the revolution diminish in the minds of younger generations and the overwhelming charm of the Cuban culture banquets through the hearts and minds of avid travelers, the country will no doubt become the generous host that it is known to be by only a limited few today.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Barbara Williamson

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “View from our balcony” by Still Burning is licensed under CC By 2.0

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