Tourism is Still Stagnant in Cuba, With 50 Percent Fewer Visitors Than Before the Pandemic

Near the Havana capitol tourists ride in a horse-drawn carriage. (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 March 2023 — The collapse of tourism in Cuba once again marks a milestone this February, when the Island barely registered 186,343 visitors according to preliminary official data. Although we will have to wait until later to have the complete report of the National Office of Information and Statistics (Onei), the official newspaper Cubadebate anticipates that between January and February, 489,000 tourists arrived on the Island. The newspaper admits that this is barely half (51%) of what was recorded in the same period of 2019, comparing the numbers for the first time with a pre-pandemic year.

The total is obtained by subtracting the tourists received in January, which were 302,657. Comparing that figure with that of 2020, the last year considered normal, just before COVID-19, the Island had 23% fewer international travelers. However, the decline is much more abrupt with the second month of the year as a reference. In February 2020, Cuba received more than 400,000 tourists, so the fall is more than 53%.

If the same comparison is made with the year 2019, when more than 450,000 tourists arrived on the Island, the decrease is greater than 58%. If the months of January are compared, the decrease is slightly less, 49%, hence the average offered by Cubadebate, although the data are not yet exact, so there is a mismatch in the numbers.

With the data advanced yesterday, Canada is helping the recovery, with 252,650 tourists in 2023, 80% of those who arrived in the same period of 2019. They are followed, at a great distance, by Cubans living abroad, with 51,187, and the United States, with 24,451, in these first two months.

In the following block, the European markets appear but do not stand out, according to the official press, due to the “non-recovery of long-distance travel from the Old Continent and the inadequacy of air connections.” Thus, the list is led by the United Kingdom (13,596), followed by Germany (13,585), France (13,103), Italy (11,373) and, at the tail end, Spain (10,613), which was traditionally one of the largest groups.

Russia continues to be the only market that retreats and passes from 35,871 travelers in 2022 during the first two months of the year to 20,589. Sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

According to the official press, during the first five days of the current month of March, which represents the period of maximum tourist arrivals for Cuba, only 470 flights landed at Cuban international airports, and the sea route is not significant, providing 12,180 visitors of which 3,794 are crew members, a “product of the restrictions from the United States.”

The news is not encouraging, and the objective of the Cuban Government, which once again puts all its hopes into tourism to obtain foreign currency, pay its debts and import needed products, among many other things, seems too ambitious.

The Government announced at the end of last year that it expects to reach 3.5 million foreign visitors in 2023, a small figure compared to the more than 4 million who visited in the years after the thaw and the 5 million it aspired to before the arrival of COVID-19. However, the first signs indicate that the target could be unattainable again.

This happened in 2022, when the authorities predicted 2.5 million tourists to drop to 1.7 million in October. Ultimately, 1,614,087 foreign visitors arrived on the Island in the first year without a pandemic, contributing to the increasingly evident shipwreck of the national economy.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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