Relations between Cuba and Canada are an example of positive ties between two countries, as much on the economic and commercial level as the cooperative and political sphere.
The two countries have demonstrated strong ties over the past 70 years and one example of that is the gradual increase of tourists who come to the Caribbean’s largest island every year. In 2015 the number of Canadians visiting Cuba reached a total of 1.3 million, representing a growth of 10.6% over 2014.
It is therefore hugely significant that Canada will be guest country of honour at the International Tourism fair 2016, one of the reasons for which Cubaplus magazine decided to interview his Excellency Mr Yves Gagnon, Canada’s Ambassador to Cuba.
Recently the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations between Canada and Cuba was celebrated. What historic value do you believe this has and how do you see it today?
It’s worth noting that ours are uninterrupted relations. We are proud of that. If anything, Cubans know from history that their friendship with Canadians is not fly-by-night.
The positive relationship we now have with Cuba is stable, profound and multidimensional. The traditional components of this relationship —political, trade and development cooperation— are clearly beneficial to both countries. For example, maintaining respectful engagement with Cuba allowed Canada to play a facilitating role in the talks that led to the current rapprochement with the USA.
Two-way merchandise trade between the two countries is at $1 billion dollars per year and Cuba is Canada’s largest export market in the Caribbean. Since the beginning of the 90s Canadians have consistently represented the largest number of tourists to visit the island, contributing markedly to the development of Cuba’s economy and generating countless people-to-people relationships. Also of significance, Canada is among the top bilateral cooperation partners of Cuba.
Canada is Cuba’s main source of tourists. In your opinion why do Canadians choose Cuba over other destinations for their holiday trips?
In addition to offering warm weather and beautiful beaches which Canadians dream of when planning their trips to the South during the Canadian winter, Cuba offers a safe and secure environment, a welcoming and well-educated population and a rich culture. But the key to this success is that Cubans and Canadians respect and appreciate each other.
How important is it that Canada will be the guest country at Cuba’s next International Tourism Fair, and why?
First, it is an honour for Canada! I also believe it is a testimony to the quality of our relationship. It is an occasion for Canada and Cuba to celebrate together the mutual benefits and countless people-to-people links that tourism generates. I believe this is also an occasion to further advance trade and investment opportunities.
Every year we see the number of Canadian visitors to Cuba grow. Do you expect this trend to continue?
Tourism is a global business of great importance. We are all competing for a share of the global demand. Canadians will continue to visit Cuba in large numbers as long as they continue to receive the warm welcome they have always received here.
How do you see the future of relations between the two countries in terms of business, trade and especially in the tourism sector? There is a great potential for growth in all these areas. The current updating of Cuba’s economic model is gradually opening new possibilities. This said, investing and doing business in any foreign country is a challenge. Canadians and Cubans will continue to work together to meet this challenge and find opportunities in each other’s country.
Canadians are good neighbours and they are perceived as such by Cubans. It’s a great achievement and a solid foundation to build on. In the future, we will continue to work together to create an ever more peaceful and prosperous hemisphere.