14ymedio, Madrid, 27 December 2023 — Ariana Guilak got off an American Airlines flight from Miami this Tuesday in Punta Cana and found a surprise. David Collado, Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, and Frank Rainieri, businessman of the founder of the Punta Cana Group, were waiting for her at the foot of the plane. Both gave her a bouquet of flowers, a flag of the country and a commemorative band: she was the passenger who symbolically marked the milestone of 10 million tourists in 2023.
The fact, spread by international media, has a devastating headline for the Cuban authorities, in the magazine Reportur, the most read in the sector in Latin America: Cuba is moving away from tourist records while the Dominican Republic pulverizes them, it says, without mercy. The subtitle is not far behind: Heads and tails of Caribbean recovery.
“With this flight, the Dominican Republic has 10,031,000 visitors in 2023, the result of the work of the public and private sectors. Our country is celebrating today. This is an achievement of all Dominicans and we should all feel proud,” said Minister Collado at the event, which was repeated in the other two main airports in the country – Santo Domingo and Santiago – as well as at the two largest cruise terminals.
The sector contributed more than 20% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a record in Latin America, and places the Dominican Republic as the second most visited Latin American destination, behind Mexico
The good news did not stop there. In December alone, the figure of 850,000 tourists arriving in the country by plane will be reached. The sector contributed more than 20% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a record in Latin America, and places the Dominican Republic as the second most visited Latin American destination, behind Mexico. Furthermore, in 2022 it was a leader in the recovery of tourism in the region, with twice as many international travelers as giants such as Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.
With so much joy, it is not surprising that Frank Rainieri told Reportur that the goal should now be to achieve 15 billion dollars annually starting in 2030; this year foreign currency worth about 11 billion has been generated. “You stop at the store in the new terminal and there they sell 1,200 products from Dominican artisans and more than 400 bottles of mamajuana,” said the businessman, who put arrivals on December 24 at 18,000.
The news – which could be foreseen due to the good results of the Dominican Republic in recent years – must not be sitting very well with Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, who remains in office even though under his leadership the sector has sunk, notwithstanding its status as the authorities’ most-favored sector.
If none of his colleagues in the Council of Ministers can be happy with his management, the case of the head of tourism is the most bloody, since he received a department with dazzling figures: 4,750,000 international travelers in 2018, despite the increase in vaunted sanctions. He watched it fall in his first year in office (down to 4.3 million in 2019) and has been unable to recover it in the two years after the worst of the pandemic (which was 2021 for the Island) despite enjoying the greatest share of investments and having the rest of the sectors at its service, from food production to banking.
García Granda had to go through the trouble of telling Parliament last week that as of October 2,450,000 visitors had arrived on the Island “a growth of 50% compared to 2022, but that still represents 64% of what was achieved in 2019.” The data had a catch, since the minister was counting all travelers and not tourists, who as of the end of November numbered only 2,177,830, well below the 3.5 million expected, although close to the projections, made by the economist Pedro Monreal, who, applying mathematical logic, warned as early as April of the need to rectify.
In the absence of December data – predictably optimal, as it is the best month in the sector – the scenario described by the expert as “pessimistic” will prevail
“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,” he said in his X account. In the absence of December data – predictably optimal, as it is the best month in the sector – the scenario described by the expert as “pessimistic” will prevail.
García Granda blamed the “absence of a systems approach for the integrated management of the destination, the restriction in the forms of payment for services and offers, the deterioration of infrastructure to support tourism activity, the insufficient preparation of local governments to guarantee the tourism management of their territories and the difficulties with human capital.” He also used classic excuses such as Covid-19 and the embargo.
“Our main competition in the area, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, have recovered at a faster speed than us, but 50% of their tourists are Americans. Cuba cannot benefit from the main market in the region,” he lamented.
He was, however, able to take comfort in talking about the Canadian market, an origin that still slightly resists the Dominican Republic: it has received some 783,000 Canadians so far this year, compared to 557,000 in 2022, a very positive increase but one that falls short when compared to Cuba, which doubles the number of Canadian tourists, going from 428,146 to 822,825 this year, despite the alert activated by Ottawa this October.
“Canadians love our country so much that, despite the orchestrated campaigns against Cuba and distorted information about our reality, this year we will reach the figure of more than 950,000 visitors, with a recovery well above the rest of the markets,” García Granda added, while setting his sights on what are now two promising points: the growing Russian market and the highly desired Chinese one, with the exception of Taiwan.
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