During the first month of the year 95,856 tourists visited the island, less than in the same month in 2019. The the decline was greatest in the U.S. market, which saw a 68.8% reduction: 19,464 visitors versus 62,416 the previous year. Other markets which saw significant reductions were European countries and the overseas Cuban community, which registered 12% fewer visitors.
The Russian market, however, is growing and is now the third largest, with 48.4% more tourists than in January 2019. Canada also grew modestly at 2.1%.
“It’s a big drop-off,” said economist Pedro Monreal on Twitter in reference to the global figure.
In his blog, Humberto Herrera, who has close ties to the Cuban government, attributed the drop to measures the Trump administration has put into effect to prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to the island and adds that the calculation is meeting the forecasts.
Monreal writes in a comment on the thread, “Given the 19.6% decline in January, what the minister said could mean two things: that a decrease was foreseen in the first month of the year and that the next few months should see enough steady growth to meet the goal for 2020.”
Tourism, which is the Cuba’s largest source of income after remittances from overseas and medical services, had a bad start to the year after suffering negative growth the previous year. Only the beach resort town of Varadero bucked the trend, growing 12% in January mainly due to the high concentration of hotels managed by foreign companies in the area.
For this year, Cuban tourism authorities have set themselves the goal of receiving 4.5 million international visitors and reversing the decline suffered, but the health crisis that arose after the spread of COVID-19 could destroy these plans, as tourism globally is beginning to show a sharp decline since the emergence of the novel coronavirus.
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