Cuban tourism product could overtake JA - Kosvogiannis
Dimitris Kosvogiannis, general manager of the Melia Braco Village hotel, is concerned Jamaica may be knocked off its pedestal by greater participation of Cuba in the Caribbean tourism market.
"Once the initial shock factor of Cuba and the romance factor and the curiosity wear off, Cuba will retain an additional market share if their service level and their product raises to the calibre that it used to be in the '50s," he said.
He was responding to news of approvals granted to six US airlines to resume scheduled commercial air service from the US to Cuba for the first time in more than five decades. Kosvogiannis believes this will result in a short-term downturn in the number of tourists visiting Jamaica, a trend he fears could be sustained if Jamaica does not improve its levels of service delivery.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett described the approvals for commercial flights to Cuba as a welcome opportunity for the multi-destination approach to tourism that he has been championing. Kosvogiannis believes the minister's policy approach in this regard is visionary and appropriate. But he has called for industry leaders to complement Bartlett's vision by ensuring that service levels within the tourism sector are improved.
"I think executives within the tourism industry ... need to take on this issue of service levels. If we continue to do nothing and rest on our laurels, I think Cuba will present a new threat; and I have been saying that about my hotel. If we don't do something different, people are gonna say we have been there already, let's go somewhere else," he said.
The first step for the Greek hotelier is the establishment of an independent agency that rates hotels. He says this would encourage competition that would force hotels to raise their level of service.
"I have said it from time immemorial, we need to have an institution that categorises and brand hotels. It cannot be that two hotels sitting next to each other, one offering hamburgers and one offering caviar are both five-star because the owners of those hotels, for marketing purposes, label them as five-stars," he explained.
Kosvogiannis further argued that the infrastructure that will train the tourism workforce, once the Cuban product is properly developed, is far more advanced than that of Jamaica and poses another significant threat.