Florida tourism industry keeping an eye on Cuba

At a recent meeting in a Key West ballroom, local tourism leaders didn't just ratify a contingency plan for the day Washington lifts all travel restrictions on Cuba.

They approved some slogans, too.

We're Making History Again would promote tours of historic homes in both Havana and Key West. So Much to Catch Up On is the tag line for a hypothetical fishing tournament off the waters of both islands. And for trips splitting time between both popular tourist spots, The Keys plans this promotional campaign: Two Nations. One Vacation.

Monroe County's updated 10-page "Cuba Strategic Marketing Plan" reflects the growing attention Cuba is getting from Florida's tourism industry. With the White House this week lifting travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, the debate shifted to what could be the next step: allowing all Americans to visit the Communist island.

Politics aside, that possibility has long been a concern for vacation spots in Florida that fear competition from the lush and exotic island. Studies predict as many as two million Americans would vacation in Cuba in the years after the end of travel restrictions.

That potential has the Sunshine State studying how to prepare its top industry for an American tourism boom 90 miles away from its shores.

Visit Florida, the state's tourism board, issued a cautionary report in 2002 that warned one in five Florida vacationers would pick Cuba over the Sunshine State if given a choice. This week, officials at the tourism board downplayed the threat from a country with fewer hotel rooms than Detroit.

To read the complete article, visit

Related stories from Idaho Statesman