Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, shares a light moment with??Cuba’s Ambassador to Barbados, Lissette P??rez P??rez, during a meeting at his Ministry. (A. Miller/BGIS)??

Increased cooperation were the key words mentioned today during talks between the Cuban Ambassador to Barbados, Lissette P??rez P??rez, and Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy.

Minister Sealy emphasised the need for Cuba to increase its involvement in Caribbean matters, as Cuba "is the largest island and boasts the second largest number of tourist arrivals in the region."??

He noted that Cuba’s voice needed to be heard on those issues which affected the Caribbean tourism industry, which continued to feel the effects of various international taxes.

"There is the Airline Passenger Duty tax, but there is a similar aviation tax that was recently put into effect.?? Germany has it and now other countries are looking at it," he said.??

The Minister observed that increased airlift was essential for the survival of the sector and the introduction of direct flights, such as the one to Brazil with GOL Airlines, represented a crucial move into new source markets.

"What is impressive about GOL is that they have a strong presence throughout Latin America and we intend to build on that.?? We have nine tour operators in Buenos Aires that are selling Barbados," he revealed.??

Minister Sealy also noted that other South American countries, like Uruguay, were being introduced to the Barbados brand and there were plans afoot to include some Central American countries.

"The next likely Latin American port that we hope to have a direct flight from would be Panama City," he stated.

The Cuban envoy suggested that the two countries, and others in the region, should create opportunities to share their experiences on their respective tourism industries and consider a holistic approach to marketing the region.

"Tourism is very important for us…it is one of our most important industries; and it would be ideal to share a multi-destination concept for the Caribbean, where we do not see each other as competitors, but as complementing each other," she opined.?? Ambassador P??rez P??rez said that awareness of the similarities between the cultures of the region would lead to greater understanding between Cuba, Barbados and other island states.??

"Cuba has a rich culture, it’s a mix.?? We have Latin American issues, but Caribbean ones as well," she said.

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