Cuba: highest tourist season amid hard times

Cuba: highest tourist season amid hard times
Fecha de publicación: 
27 November 2023
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Amid a very tight situation triggered by a series of negative factors, Cuba enters its highest tourist season, which will extent until next April.

This sector has a paramount role in a very depressed economy and this industry has yet to take off. Hence, Cuban tourism recovery is essential as it has the ability to acquire foreign currencies. Even so, the tourism industry in Cuba is still the second largest contributor to Cuba’s GDP and third taking into account its financial profit, just behind professional services and remittances.

1,814,150 international visitors arrived in Cuba until September, which represented an increase of over two-thirds compared to the same period in 2022, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

However, such figure shows the impossibility for the country to reach the government goal of 3.5 million tourists in 2023, because in the first nine months, barely half of that flow has been reached.

In a recent Council of Ministers, the head of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, highlighted that the total number of travelers welcomed so far in 2023 represents 75.5% of what was planned for this date and only 55% of visitors at the same period in 2019.

The main issuing markets are Canada, the United States, Russia, Spain, Germany and France, all with annual increases compared to the previous 24 months. However, the movement of vacationers is still insufficient and is influenced by conditions that not only affect Cuba, but also in the whole world, affected by a turbulent time with wars, unequal development and where walls are being built instead of bridges.

For the winter season, the Caribbean nation boasts repairs in its main airports, top-class hotels in Havana, in the most important tourist resorts nationwide, in the keys and beach resorts, led by Varadero, which began its peak season last November 8th with a flight managed by the Spanish company Plus Ultra from Poland.

According to the Sputnik news agency, it is also worth highlighting the number of Russian tourists who traveled to the national territory, a total of 146,300 visitors between January and October, posting a growth of 3.5 times compared to the same period of last year, reported the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (Ator).

Other air connections have been confirmed and their flight frequencies have raised in not few cases, as is the case of the US airline American Airlines, which will operate 82 weekly flights throughout the winter.

These actions occur in a context of colossal challenges, starting with the strengthening of the blockade imposed by the White House against Havana, with more than 60 years of existence; and with which we must coexist and resist. However, it is still an exhausting process, with an impact on the daily lives of Cubans.

All these was unfortunately compounded by the consequences of the pandemic, a long period of inactivity that still affects local production processes; as well as accelerated inflation, imbalance in supplies, fuel deficit and, above all, foreign currency.

“We are experiencing a very complex situation at the moment, one of greatest economic pressure,” acknowledged the President of the Republic Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who, in addition, addressed the media crusade exerted by toxic platforms seeking to suffocate the nation.

We shall mention the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, an obvious burden on the Caribbean archipelago. However, in the face of such challenges, the Cubans continue on building their future. One key element attached to this future is to promote tourism. Recently in London, Cuba was bestowed the Award "Most Desired Island in the World" from the UK travel magazine Wanderlust.

The reasons for this award were also recently highlighted by the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, while visiting China, where he pointed out that the Cuban destination has many potentials for the Asian giant, due to its geographical location -ideal for multi-destination-; its nature, culture, history, heritage, staff training, political stability and, above all, its hospitable people.

There are certainly many attributes. Yes, but the unjustified and criminal US siege viciously harasses the ventures of Cuba’s leisure industry, to which is added the tacit fact that the economic contraction is universal; plus a strong competition in the region with the Mexican Caribbean, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, none suffering the burden of having Washington hoovering around.

For the rebirth of the industry, some destinations need more air capabilities that allow the connection between cities. December may link travelers from Canada to the cities of Cienfuegos and Manzanillo, Granma.

In the face of this accumulation of adversities, pressures and shortcomings, there are no other options than that of helping Cuba to follow its development project and face, with optimism, its highest tourism season amid hard times.

 Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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