Cuba Establishes an Electronic Visa to Try to Revitalize Tourism that is Not Recovering

• In the first trimester of the year, only a quarter of the international travelers expected for 2024 arrived, far from the 32% needed to meet projections.

• The United States has denied 300,000 electronic visas to European citizens for having visited Cuba before.

Marrero opened the FitCuba event, in which the Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, was also present / Invasor

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 3 May 2024 — Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced the establishment of an electronic visa that will replace the traditional tourist card as of May 6. The document, whose purpose is to facilitate international visits to Cuba, is called E-visa and can be obtained on a website created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“With the electronic visa, tour operators and end users will be able to manage their application in a simplified way from any device connected to the Internet,” said the executive this Thursday at the inauguration of the International Tourism Fair, FitCuba 2024. Its 42nd edition is being celebrated in Jardines del Rey (Ciego de Ávila).

Marrero opened the event, at which the minister of the sector, Juan Carlos García Granda, was also present, as well as the governor of Ávila, Alfre Menéndez Pérez, and the regional director for the Americas of UN Tourism, Gustavo Santos, who offered the support of the organization for the consolidation of the sector’s recovery in Cuba, which has yet to be completed.

On April 19, the National Office of Statistics and Information (Onei) provided the official number of tourists who arrived in Cuba in the first quarter of the year. The number was 809,238 international travelers, just 56,807 more than the previous year during the same period. This figure threatens to wreck, once again, the authorities’ annual aspirations of 3,200,000 tourists this year, since the number represents only 25.2% of the objective. In 2023, as of April, 21.4% of the projected 3.5 million had been achieved and the final figure was only 2.4 million.

Cuban economist Pedro Monreal already warned at that time that Cuba needs to achieve around 32% of the forecasts in the first trimester if the goal is to be met

Cuban economist Pedro Monreal already warned at that time that Cuba needs to achieve around 32% of the forecasts in the first trimester if the goal is to be met.

This Thursday, Marrero did not hesitate to blame the United States for the debacle, to which he attributes a “subversive and diversionary policy, aimed at destroying our Revolution, which makes the management and conduct of recovery and development plans difficult.” Cuban authorities have made it their most recent objective to overturn the US rule that prevents tourists who have visited Cuba or any other country on the list of sponsors of terrorism from entering its territory with ESTA (an electronic document that exempts travelers from several countries from visa requirements).

“We are the only country in the world in which US citizens, the main issuing market to the Caribbean, are prohibited by law from traveling freely to Cuba as tourists. Also, as part of the extraterritorial application of the blockade, 300,000 electronic visas were denied to European citizens for having visited Cuba before”, claimed Marrero, citing data published this week by the American press. The measure does not prevent entry into the country, although it does require a tourist visa to be processed, which means more processing time and expenses for the applicant.

The prime minister also referred to the cancellation of the route to Buenos Aires due to the refusal of the Argentine company that supplied fuel to Cubana de Aviación to continue supplying it.

Marrero had, however, good news in store for that day. According to what he revealed, the Spanish Justice System definitively closed the case opened in Mallorca against Meliá Hotels Internacional, the Gaviota group and the Cuban State.

“We recently learned of the definitive victory in the lawsuit against the Meliá Hotel chain, the Gaviota tourism group and the Cuban State in Mallorca, Spain. “Justice triumphed!” wrote the leader on his X account.

“We recently learned of the definitive victory in the lawsuit against the Meliá Hotel chain, the Gaviota tourism group and the Cuban State in Mallorca, Spain. Justice triumphed!”

The lawsuit, which has been open since 2019 and has had countless twists and turns, was filed by the Sánchez Hill family, residing in the United States, who requested compensation of about 10 million euros for the lands located in the current province of Holguín, which were expropriated by Fidel Castro in 1960 and from which Meliá benefits by managing several hotels built there by the Cuban military.

The CEO of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer – who has been banned from entering the US since 2020 due to the Helms-Burton law – told Cuban Television News this Thursday that he is proud that, for the third time, the Spanish justice system has granted them the point in the lawsuit. “Our commitment to Cuba is unconditional and we have been demonstrating it since 1989,” said the businessman.

Meliá, which manages almost 40 hotels in Cuba, announced a new investment: the Gran Marena Cayo Coco, which will open under the name Meliá Costa Rey and is owned by the Gran Caribe Hotel Group. The Balearic hotel company will manage this establishment, which was the last hotel that operated with a 5-star category under the Accor brand in Cuba, as Pullman Cayo Coco.

FitCuba 2024, which will receive more than 600 participants from airlines, tour operators, travel agencies, hoteliers, transporters and related professionals and will run starting from this Thursday until Sunday, May 5, awarded Meliá, Iberostar and Blue Diamond hotel chains for “their support for the development of the leisure industry.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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