Despite the Massive Arrival of Canadians and Russians, Tourism Has Not Picked Up in Cuba

There have been considerably fewer European tourists in recent years. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 17, 2024 — Cuba closed the year 2023 certifying its inability to recover the tourism it had before the COVID-19 pandemic. With a final figure of 2,436,980 international visitors, the Island achieves 151% more than in 2022, but 42.8% less than in 2019. In addition, if compared to its aspirations, 3.5 million arrivals, the percentage is 31% lower.

The worst forecasts of the Cuban economist Pedro Monreal are almost fulfilled. In April 2023, given the data of the first quarter, he warned the Cuban authorities of the importance of making a correction to its  forecasts. “A simple exercise of scenarios – not a forecast – that could certainly be improved, would indicate a possible range between 2.3 and 3.1 million, with an intermediate scenario of 2.9 million,” the professor wrote nine months ago. His most pessimistic figure is quite close to reality.

The data were released on the same day that Brussels confirmed that the European Union exceeded by 1.6% the overnight stays in tourist accommodation in 2019, with Spain, which registered 483 million tourists, in the lead, followed by France (456 million) and Germany (433 million). In the specific case of the first, 32.3 million more nights were achieved than a year earlier.

 The data were released on the same day that Brussels confirmed that the European Union exceeded the overnight stays in tourist accommodations of 2019 by 1.6%, with Spain in the lead

In addition to Spain, which also has a strong commitment to sun and beach tourism, there are other countries that compete even more directly with Cuba, such as the Dominican Republic, which closed the year surpassing the record of 10 million international travelers, and Mexico, which received 17 million tourists, 13.8% more than in 2019.

The poor figures for Cuba occur despite the fact that its main market, Canada, does not seem to have weakened after the government in October issued a precautionary alert about travel to the Island due to the “scarity of basic necessities, including food, medicines and fuel.” Although the warning has been renewed occasionally, Canadian tourism is recovering little by little, and 39,421 Canadians were received in October. A month later 73,849 arrived, and in December the number was 113,611. The annual total amounts to 936,436, although we have to go back to 2015 to talk about the record, with more than 1,300,000.

Figures for Russia, which becomes the third country to send tourists, also rise, behind the Cuban-American community, which with 358,481 travelers remains stable over the years, with the exception of 2016 and 2017 – during the thaw – when 400,000 and half a million were exceeded, respectively.

The Cuban Government and Moscow placed a lot of emphasis on the tourist market for Russians, and 184,819 arrived last year on the Island. This figure was expected and surpassed that of 2019, when an absolute record was reached, with 178,000.

The growth of travel from this nation is very significant, since in 2015 the Island barely exceeded 44,000 Russian tourists, who since then have only multiplied, surpassing the bad patch that occurred not only during COVID-19, but in 2022, when European sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine led to the total suspension of flights between Russia and Cuba. The political will to resolve that situation has managed to turn the figures around.

Spain, with 89,285 tourists, and Germany, with 69,475, are the next priority markets, but it is enough to look back to see the collapse. In 2017, 168,949 Spaniards and 243,172 Germans spent a vacation on the Island.

The growth of travelers from that nation is very significant, since in 2015 the Island barely exceeded 44,000 Russian tourists who since then have only multiplied

Despite everything, the Island has not even paused what it still considers a locomotive for its economy, and investments in hotels do not cease. Last week, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, head of Tourism for more than a decade, inaugurated a new establishment of the Spanish hotel company Meliá. “In Trinidad, the importance of the development of tourism and its impact on economic and social life has materialized, manifesting itself in the generation of employment and the substantial increase of new economic actors,” the official said on X.

“As part of the 510th anniversary of the foundation of the Villa, we inaugurated the Meliá Trinidad Peninsula Hotel, a facility that will mark a before and after in the tourist development of this municipality,” said the prime minister in reference to the new five-star accommodation.

According to the data, the Government of Cuba dedicated 16 times more of its budget in 2022 – more than 1 billion dollars – to this sector than to Health or Education.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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