14ymedio, Madrid, 2 May 2023 — The sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of Copper [“Cachita”], in Santiago de Cuba, with the superimposed effigy of a Cuban santera, is the striking image of one of the promotional posters of the 41st edition of the International Tourism Fair of the Island (FitCuba), inaugurated on May 1st.
The event, which will take place until next Friday at the Morro-Cabaña complex, brings together “about 73 international tour operators, more than 51 hotel chains and an equal number of airlines,” according to the official press.
Cubadebate highlighted that it is the first FitCuba held in the capital since the pandemic — last year’s took place in Varadero — and that it is dedicated “to culture and heritage.”
At the same time, in Cayo Santa María (Villa Clara), almost 400 travel agents from Spain and Portugal will meet until May 7, in the so-called Annual Macro Convention DIT Management. The Cuban News Agency picked up the statements of the president of the Spanish company, Jon Arriaga, who said that the event had been planned for half a year “with the interest of promoting the sale of Cuba as a destination.”
The firm, based in the Basque Country, arrived with the professionals summoned to the Havana airport on April 30, with the intention that their agents would participate in the May Day parade, ultimately postponed until Friday, May 5.
“They come to Cuba and Havana in extraordinary circumstances, marked by the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the US blockade. Despite this, they will enjoy the customs, habits and traditions that distinguish us,” the governor of Havana, Reinaldo García Zapata, said in his welcome speech to FitCuba.
In the same vein, the Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, declared that this sector “has demonstrated great potential and has been able to maintain its competitiveness in the international market despite the challenges it faces.”
Those “challenges” were also alluded to by Cuban Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, who, attributing the situation to the Covid-19 pandemic and the US blockade, acknowledged that they have had “difficult years.”
Among the “potentialities” of the Island to recover tourism, which is the third source of income in the country behind the sale of medical services and remittances, Marrero points out “the quality infrastructure, a trained human capital, the extensive historical and cultural legacy, legendary heritage cities, 290 national monuments, a preserved nature, 600 km of beach and a town characterized by its joviality.”
Despite the usual self-congratulations, official figures show that the crisis is far from over. According to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (Onei), Cuba received 1.6 million international travelers in 2022, which was below the 1.7 million target, which in turn had been “re-adjusted” from an initial forecast of 2.5 million.
Although more foreign tourists came than in 2021 (356,470), the figure is far from the levels of 2019 (4.2 million) and 2018 (4.6 million), before Covid-19.
Several experts have already warned that the target of 3.5 million international visitors projected by the Government for 2023 will be very difficult to reach, given the current crisis, with frequent blackouts, shortages of food, medicines and fuel, and roads and other public infrastructures in poor condition.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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