Cuban Tourism and its Pending Issues

Cuban Tourism and its Pending Issues
Fecha de publicación: 
15 January 2024
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Tourism continues to be essential to alleviating the difficulties derived from this war economy the country is going through. These are times to correct distortions and reinvigorate the economic panorama.

Cuba begins on a new path for its development, after the announcement of a group of measures with such objectives. Now we’re working on its careful implementation in 2024. We steer back into the path and solutions are sought with the conviction that in the face of complexity in the current situation, to solve it we must act, encourage citizen participation and have rigorous control.

The bet is aimed at branches capable of consistently contributing to the lack of financial liquidity, a problem with hits everywhere, and thereby contributing to confronting the unilateral and criminal blockade of the United States, which is increasingly twisted and which framework of legislation “watches” 24 hours of every day, of all weeks and months of the year, in this case leap year with 366 days, to “strangle” us.

That may be a strong word but it carries the weight of truth: more than 80% of the Cuban population has lived in hardship because of it. And as we lived with that ongoing hostility, we did so during COVID-19, and we survived. We were able to alleviate the colossal challenge that 2023 represented, and now, facing the current calendar, alternatives are being analyzed.

In this last year there were good indicators in tobacco, seafood, biotechnology and the leisure industry was reactivated, but far from the expected and necessary pace.

Creative initiatives and capacities to meet deadlines must be developed, otherwise they become simple goals that, for one reason or another, could remain half-finished.

Behind the exports of professional services abroad, the sphere of recreation is shown to be leading due to its condition of dynamically capturing foreign currency, while at the same time it’s linked with other activities, which like wagons are driven by the locomotive for its requirements of supplies.

Without ignoring the lash back of events like the sharp media war, the hegemonic global crisis - present equally for markets and destinations - and the fierce harassment of the White House, Cuba plans to receive 3 100 000 travelers until next December, in a plan more in agreement to that context.

In 2023, around 2 450 000 clients should have been received by the end of December, according to figures from the Ministry of Economy and Planning, out of an initial plan of three million 500 thousand, which from the beginning seemed extremely exaggerated, in the vain illusion of getting closer to the more than 4 200 000 vacationers of 2019.

Among the pending issues of tourism are palpable realities such as the lack of airport connections that influence the increase of international arrival flows, prioritizing the potential of Latin America and Russia; create new products derived from other attractions and take advantage of the intentionally of foreign incursions into tourism markets to promote Cuba.

The quality of the service, with a multi-skilled and language-dominant employment, is a quality that adorns Cuba beyond its many attributes, sometimes with a certain similarity to its competition in the area, only that their access is not restricted to travelers from La Unión. In fact, 90% of those who vacation in the Caribbean are Americans.

The blockade does harm, and this is a simple example: Washington persecutes both people and companies that trade with “the enemy”, that means us. They reduced the issue of cruise ships to zero with their brutal veto. They hit right where it hurts because they know that there’s interest in the “Cursed Island” - now also kept on the list of alleged nations sponsoring terrorism - by successive United States administrations.

Being displaced from the natural market, then we had to look further ahead and so vacationers from Eastern Europe and China are becoming common in these parts, clearly at the moment in the rescue process after the consequences of the pandemic, which still weigh upon us.

We cannot start from preconceived ideas that we have the best natural environment and a high-quality and diverse hotel and non-hotel infrastructure. Our competitive neighbors such as the Mexican Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Central America and Puerto Rico also exhibit their vacation proposals and their American clients are assured, which is why the forces of the indigenous industry are called upon to devepol creative actions to have more and more of the pie. It won't be easy, that's for sure. It never has been.

During a speech at the International Fair of Tourism of Cuba FITCuba 2023 (held in Varadero last May), the head of the local portfolio, Juan Carlos García Granda, said that the sector “has a leading role, because it represents the sector that pays the most income to the national economy and one of the strategic axes of the development of the Archipelago.”

Well, knowing its role, it only remains for each person to do their job efficiently. It has preserved natural benefits, more than 600 kilometers of beach, a human capital of recognized qualifications, colonial heritage cities, nine World Heritage sites, a broad historical-cultural legacy, around 80 thousand hotel rooms and 14 tourist centers possessing of a potential for 400 thousand rooms, of which close to 20% has been executed.

The greatest investment dynamic in the country in the last two decades has occurred, precisely, in this area, so it’s urgent to respond to this effort with superior results.

With such guarantees we have the tools to fight, especially when this constitutes a safe, politically stable destination and with foreign partners who have backed us up, which certainly speaks of a determined commitment with Cuba; and with a people with a well-earned reputation for being hospitable and supportive. In the midst of the demands of today's challenging context: the field is called to demonstrate that: Yes, it can be done.

In March 2022, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, called in a review of the organization to work with creativity. We need, he said then, more innovative tourism.

As you will understand, such exhortation is still valid taking into account the turbulent scenario Cuba is experiencing, where the sector has its state mandate defined. There’s no other option: Cuban tourism must broaden its horizons and solve pending issues.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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