14ymedio, Madrid, 23 January 2024 — Mexico is trying to recover Russian tourism through Cuba. The new effort consists of offering tourist packages that sell both Caribbean destinations together, as detailed by Darío Flota Ocampo, of Enjoy Travel Group, which specializes in this sector.
“A phenomenon is happening in Cuba; it is receiving European travelers, specifically Russians, who due to the conditions of the flight blockade in Canada and the United States no longer come to Cancun but are arriving in Cuba. With a daily air connection between Havana and Cancun, there is a good possibility that Russian wholesale agencies will find a way to get to Cancun from Havana,” said Flota Ocampo, who was also director of the Tourism Promotion Council of the state of Quintana Roo.
The Russians are, in his experience, a market with high purchasing power, but the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have made it difficult for Russians to travel abroad due to the reduction in flights
The expert explains that the Russians began to arrive in Cancun years ago, causing a real tsunami in the tourism sector, which began to hire guides who spoke Russian and to translate their promotional material into Russian. Even the restaurants translated their menus, he says.
The Russians are, in his experience, a market with high purchasing power, but the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have hindered their trips abroad due to the reduction of flights, in addition to some other measures linked to banking.
“We want to recover this important market for Mexico, since the Russians stopped coming but now are traveling again. However they prefer going to Cuba, because they know the place, but since it’s a long trip for them, they can take advantage of another destination in the Caribbean,” he insists.
To do this, the travel agency is developing in parallel the promotion in Cuba of the Mexican Caribbean destination and a “multi-destination program” to go from the Island to Mexico, extending their trip. Russians, according to the tour operator, usually stay for a long time when they fly to the continent, at least three weeks on average, which makes a package of this type an attractive idea.
Flota Ocampo explained that, for the moment, workers are being trained to market these trips. “There has already been a first familiarization trip for company personnel to different countries. Online training is underway to explain the destinations, so that they know what Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancún have to offer to travelers. This year is expected to be the year for the consolidation of these markets, and the flow of foreign visitors who arrive through their stay in Havana can be increased,” he said.
Although Russia has put a lot of effort into achieving a mutual visa exemption program with all Latin American countries, some still resist. In Mexico, however, a more flexible authorization system has been implemented – the SAE electronic visa – for Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian citizens.
Already in July, the plans of the state-owned Intourist to launch joint trips to Cuba/Mexico and Cuba/Dominican Republic were revealed, “due to the great acceptance within the Russian market of these three Latin American and Caribbean destinations,” according to a report cited by the news agency Tass.
To do this, it is intended to take advantage of the direct routes open between Moscow and Havana and other tourist centers on the Island. In October 2022, Nordwind Airlines resumed flights from the Russian capital to Varadero and Ciego de Ávila, using the northern route that borders the Arctic to the North Atlantic, capable of avoiding European airspace, which has Russian companies sanctioned.
In 2023, Rossiya, an Aeroflot subsidiary, also resumed connections with Varadero in the summer and with Havana in December. The determined commitment to this market, favored by political relations, has allowed the Russians to be the only market that recovers and even improves the pre-pandemic levels of tourism in Cuba.
In 2015, only 44,000 Russians traveled to the Island, but momentum soon picked up, reaching 178,000 in 2019. This record has been surpassed this year, with 184,819, which has not been enough to recover the entire sector, especially due to the serious loss of the European markets.
Like the good Cubans we are, we have the resistance and desire to continue fighting so that the country continues to have and increases its good relations with Europe and other markets
Minister Juan Carlos García Granda presented the Cuban proposals at the International Tourism Fair at the embassy in the Spanish capital, which begins this Wednesday in Madrid and will last until Sunday, and praised the Spanish persistence in betting on the Island. “We feel proud and admire the bravery of Spanish investors, especially the families that have been investing in Cuba for many years. Europe is full of brave people, and there are more than the Spanish,” he said.
García Granda referred in Madrid to the “difficulties” that the Island has compared to other competitors, but resorted to the usual voluntarist discourse. “Like the good Cubans we are, we have the resistance and desire to continue fighting so that the country continues to have and increases its good relations with Europe and other markets,” he insisted, after emphasizing that the Island’s new challenge is more environmentally sustainable tourism.
This Monday, Gabriel Escarrer, CEO of Meliá, gave an interview to announce that this year the company will open “at least 20 hotels” in the world, half of them luxury. The manager explained that he will put “special emphasis on Mexico and Cuba,” in addition to Southeast Asia, where he has the most room for growth due to last year’s failure. In this sense, Escarrer was optimistic about the good results of 2023, except in the case of occupancy, “4% below due to the poor evolution of its hotels in Cuba and Asia.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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