14ymedio, Havana, 21 December 2022 — The worst omens of Cuba’s tourism sector are being fulfilled. With the November data, published this Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI), 1,377,253 international visitors have been received so far this year, which means that Cuba needs to receive 332,747 foreign tourists to meet its forecast for this year.
The projected number for 2022 was initially 2.5 million travelers, but the authorities admitted the huge gap between desire and reality and warned that, ultimately, the year would close with 1,710,000. The possibility of reaching that number is minimal despite the fact that these last two months are high season on the Island. Despite this, November, which was the best month of 2022, attracted 178,851 foreign tourists, and it is unlikely that the amount will double this December.
This month’s figures show another almost unprecedented factor, as pointed out by Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, who periodically analyzes the numbers. “The Cuban community abroad provides one of the most interesting data from tourism statistics in Cuba for the January-November 2022 stage, by representing just over a fifth of the total number of visitors (21.5%), surpassing the record of 16% in 2019.”
The number of Cubans residing abroad who traveled to the Island was 296,533, a number that even exceeds the total of the five main European travelers: Spain (75,116), Germany (52,496), England (42,583), France (39,597) and Italy (36,617). In addition, together with Canada, they add up to more than 52% of the tourism that the Island receives, a trend that gives strength to the opinion that the Cuban exile tends to gradually become more of an economic than a political migrant.
Canadians continue to lead the list of nationalities with the highest presence in tourism statistics, although the decline continues. Between January and November 2019 travelers from Canada numbered 1,120,077, but the number now remains at only 428,146. The Russian numbers are also still in free fall and, with just 47,760 visitors this November, confirm that what was beginning to be an upward trend is retreating by leaps and bounds. Even in the disastrous year of 2021, 131,821 Russians arrived on the Island.
The Government highlights in its press release that the number reached in November represents 539.8% more than in 2021, the worst year of the pandemic in Cuba. However, in the same time period in 2019, the last year without restrictions due to COVID-19, Cuba had received almost 4 million tourists, 190% more. The data show the Island’s inability to recover, an anomaly on the international scene.
At the end of November, the World Tourism Organization was hopeful for the recovery data of the sector at the international level, which is at 63% of the 2019 levels as a whole. Europe clearly leads the improvement, with 81% already in September. Cuba, which in the pre-pandemic closed with 4.2 million tourists, will have barely recovered 42% if it achieves the feat of reaching the goal predicted by Alejandro Gil, Minister of Economy.
In addition, the constant decline of the sector for the Island, which registered 4.7 million tourists in 2018, is confirmed.
Despite the nefarious data, the Government continues to bet on tourism as a life-saving sector. The largest amounts of money, such as the 1.5 billion dollars dedicated to the construction of hotels, has been invested since 2020. In the 2023 portfolio of opportunities, there are at least three projects for luxury tourism worth more than $3 billion.
In addition, the Cuban food sector almost daily announces new products for commercialization in hotels while the population fights for a little pork for this Christmas.
Last November, the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, projected 3 million visitors for 2023 at an industry event held in London. There he argued that the collection of foreign currency is essential to improve the lives of Cubans. “Tourism serves to reactivate thermoelectric plants, to buy more food, to give raw materials to producers, to give more well-being and quality of life to the people in general,” he said.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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