How prepared is Key West for the end of the tourism embargo on Cuba? The Conch Republic already has a slogan ready: “Two Nations. One Vacation.”
The Keys tourism bureau updated its Cuba plan in early 2014, and the 60-page document centers on persuading travelers to make Key West part of their Cuban vacations. President Obama’s announcement of looser travel rules for Cuba dpes not change the prohibition on leisure travel to the island, so for now the plan remains a contingency.
“The whole purpose of the plan was really to be prepared for when Cuba opens up to tourism. I personally don’t see that happening at this time,” said Harold Wheeler, head of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, which serves as the Keys tourism bureau. “The idea of the plan is to be ready on short notice.”
Wheeler worries that if the U.S. drops all travel rules for Cuba, the flood of travelers to the island will cut into the Keys’ own share of the vacation market. The plan explores how to divert some interest in Cuba to the Keys, by pairing attractions in Key West with their counterparts 90 miles away.
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Among the ideas: package tours of historic homes in Havana and Key West. The slogan: “We’re making history again.” Ernest Hemingway fished the waters off both islands. The Keys plan anticipates sponsoring a fishing tournament in between the two islands, advertising it with the tag line: “So much to catch up on.” All of it would fall under the slogan of “Two Nations. One Vacation” or its leaner alternative “Two Nation Vacation.”
“We don’t want people flying over us here to get there,” Wheeler said.