14ymedio, Madrid, 4 April 2023 — The provincial press once again proves to be the only one capable of separating itself from the official discourse of the Communist Party and sounding a wake-up call to the Government from within the system. The newspaper of Ciego de Ávila, Invasor, dared to do so this Monday with an opinion piece entitled “Cuban tourism: balances and imbalances,” in which it admits that the sector is not growing at the right pace, the goal for 2023 is “complicated” and, even more, the strategy is wrong.
The text highlights the failure of the recovery of Tourism, which in the first two months of the year was very far from the 2019 data, a fact that for the first time was mentioned aloud by Cuba’s Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, last Tuesday in a meeting in which the “weaknesses and strengths” of the sector were analyzed.
Marrero, who was Minister of Tourism for 15 years, said that 1,014,087 foreigners visited the Island in 2022, 37.8% of the number in 2019. It was no secret, since the official data reflected it, and the independent press had been warning for months that the appropriate date for comparing tourism figures was not the previous year, but the last year before the impact of COVID-19. However, the state media had never put it in black and white.
Taking advantage of the circumstance, as well as the analysis of the current prime minister, Invasor took the data from the 2022 Tourism report to accurately emphasize that travelers spend most of their money on food and not on hotels. Yet, the Government insists on building them.
Cuba earned, always according to the official data, 19.2 billion pesos ($800 million with the rate of $24 to 1 peso) in income in the entities of international tourism, but “the highest income was not from accommodation but from gastronomic services, with about 44% of the total collection,” writes the author, Saily Sosa.
“This means that this is where we should put the money: in increasing the quantity and quality of gastronomic offers inside and outside the tourist hubs, generating value chains back and forth. Because to guarantee the cuisine destined for tourism we must import food and raw materials, and the business is far from great,” Sosa says bluntly.
The article recalls an extremely alarming fact: only 15% of hotel beds were occupied last year. In other words, out of every 10 hotel rooms on the Island, more than 8 were empty in 2022, an even more discouraging figure when compared to competing destinations, such as the Dominican Republic (70% occupied in Punta Cana), or the Mediterranean (75% occupied in the Balearic Islands).
For Sosa, the figure is a “poor indicator” that should lead to reflection, especially if one takes into account that “Tourism has benefited in the last decade with million-dollar investments, fundamentally in the expansion of hotel rooms.”
Invasor mentions “the lack of food, beverages and supplies; poor service; insufficient leisure and entertainment activities in the tourist resorts; lack of maintenance in the facilities and unstable internet service; in addition to the difficulty of finding fuel for planes, rental cars and tour buses.” One surprising data point that Marrero revealed was the decreasing number of workers in the Tourism sector. They were among the most benefited by the juicy trips they received, but the collapse of tourism also diminished the attractiveness of these jobs.
“Several economists have warned of the urgency of changing the pattern of investments in Cuba, drifting towards the production of meat, vegetables, fruits, grains and food amounts that improve the productive bases from the technological point of view, so that it can be spoken of in terms of competitive returns and supply markets, not just in terms of of tourism, by the way,” the article spits out.
While pointing out the “disadvantage” of the “blockade,” which does not allow the arrival of American tourists, the article immediately qualifies this with a devastating criticism of political leaders who have not made the necessary decisions to produce what is needed for tourism on the Island. By importing everything instead of producing in the country, “the income is equal to the costs; therefore, profits tend to zero.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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