14ymedio, Madrid, 12 July 2023 — Under the hashtag “Travel unites us,” at least 25 young people arrived in Cuba on July 8, who were characterized by the official press, without hesitation, as “the most important Spanish influencers.” With about 120 million followers altogether on their social networks, they were invited to the Island as part of a strategy to try to reactivate tourism, which continues to fall since the pandemic.
The trip, which takes advantage of the recent inauguration of an air route from Barcelona to Havana, was organized by Enjoy Travel Group, a Spanish tour operator, the talent agency Nickname, which brings together influencers, and several foreign hotel companies with facilities in Cuba.
Figures such as Carlota Boza, actress in the Spanish series La que se avecina; the twins Paula and Aitana Etxeberría, known for their Twin Melody profile; Marina Rivera, winner of La Velada del Año III, a boxing event among content creators; Julia Menu, the Tiktoker with the most followers throughout Spain, and about a dozen other young influencers have been welcomed with all the luxuries in hotels such as the Iberostar Packard, Meliá Internacional de Varadero, Royalton Prado and the Canadian chain Blue Diamond.
Other local agencies such as Gaviota, Ecotur and Cubatur, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, have also sponsored excursions and events that included a reception at José Martí International Airport with mojitos, flowers and a Cuban music quartet on the arrival of the Enjoy Travel Group flight.
The young people arrived on the Island in business class seats, through a flight organized by Cubana de Aviación and the Spanish airline Plus Ultra. Since their arrival, they have been bombarded with all kinds of events, which have included cooking classes; salsa dances with choreographer Roclan González, director of the Ballet Revolution company; trips through the best areas in Havana in brightly colored almendrones (American cars from the 1950s); catamaran crossings in Varadero; a Cuban version of a safari to the Saturno Cave (Matanzas) and a boat trip on the Canímar River (they were not told that this July 6th marked the 43rd anniversary of the massacre of 56 people in that place by two Navy patrols); and, as the influencers themselves boast on their networks, food that includes lobster “seven days a week.”
The “young talents,” who are delighted with the wonders available to tourists and banned for the Cuban population, have filled their social media with paradisiacal images in the line of the Cuban Government’s propaganda in their intensive campaign to attract more tourism.
Nickname, the agency that represents the influencers, refused to offer their names when this newspaper contacted its sales manager. However, the social networks of their customers have been filled with comments from thousands of followers who soon recognized them and who question the intention behind the trip to Cuba, criticizing their link with the regime.
Claudia Tropiezos, a Cuban YouTuber living in Spain, recently alluded in one of her videos to some of the Spanish travelers, accusing them of destroying everything that Cuban influencers, “who know the truth [of Cuba],” had managed to expose, and she called the regime “hypocritical” for sponsoring the visit while “they don’t give food to the people.”
Enjoy Travel Group debuted on June 29 as a marketer of the A340 Barcelona-La Habana charter flight that has been held every Thursday on a weekly basis. The aircraft, with 275 seats, is part of an agreement between Cubana de Aviación and Plus Ultra. In addition to the charter line, available with a price starting from 799 euros, the agency offers tour packages throughout the country.
Likewise, the agency offers multi-destination tours from Mexico, where it manages 15 weekly trips to the Island: nine from Cancun and two for each of the other three cities, Mérida, Mexico City and Monterrey.
On the inaugural flight, members of different “familiarization trips” arrived in Cuba.These are promotional trips that are offered to tourism-related agencies so that they know the “product” first-hand. The Cuban representative was the actor and sports commentator Hector Villar, presenter of the program Jugada Perfecta.
Internationally, the project has been joined by the travel agencies Nego and Team Group, as well as others of Italian origin. Enjoy Travel Group also signed agreements with tourism companies such as Ávoris, Club 5 Estrellas, Viajes el Corte Inglés and the German TUI, to reinforce the intense promotional campaign to return tourism to the Island.
During the last year, the Cuban Government has taken desperate measures to attract customers to the numerous recently built luxury hotels that remain 84.4% empty, according to the latest official data provided for the month of May by the National Office of Statistics and Information itself.
The most recent projects included familiarization trips for journalists, the invitation of 400 travel agents belonging to the Spanish tour operator DIT Gestión, based in the Basque Country, and the call for the Santa Maria Music Fest in the Cayería Norte, which invited international musicians such as Tito El Bambino, Charly & Johayron, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Ñengo Flow, Fixty Ordara & Ja Ruley, and the Cuban Isaac Delgado.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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