US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, in the rain for a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in 2013. The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony that's focused on Mandela's legacy of reconciliation. - File
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization(CTO) on Tuesday welcomed the recent thawing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, saying it also offers an opportunity for increased visitors to the region.
The CTO in a brief statement said the US is the region's largest source market, producing nearly half of our tourism business. Last year more than 12 million Americans visited the region.
"Any opportunity to substantially increase that number will be welcomed. Cuba is a long-standing and active member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, having joined the organisation in 1992.
"We engage the destination in our efforts in Canada, Latin America and Europe and we look forward to including Cuba in our programmes in the United States," the CTO said.
It recalled that in 2002, the CTO made "a small but important breakthrough … when we succeeded in our efforts to secure a visa for the then coordinator of International Affairs in the country's Ministry of Tourism, Orlando Rangel Delgado, to attend Caribbean Week in New York.
"We anticipate much broader participation in all CTO-organised events," the CTO said, adding that Cuba will be part of the "exciting, diverse tourism product" offered by CTO's more than 30 member countries.
"We support our members' initiatives and will continue to provide the technical and other resources necessary to grow viable source markets and create sustainable tourism development strategies. This is an important part of the CTO's overall vision for the Caribbean."
Earlier this month, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the diplomatic breakthrough ending several decades of cold relationship that started soon after Fidel Castro took over power in Havana.