Cuba expects to end year with growth in visitor arrivals

Photo credits [Thelma Kelly]

Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, has said that despite the strengthening of the US embargo and measures aimed at damaging its tourism sector, Cuba expects a good high season and to close the year with a 1.6% growth in visitor arrivals over 2018.

Speaking to the media on Cuban Tourism Day, Marrero Cruz said that this relatively positive outcome was the result of intense work carried out by tourism officials, the country’s Ministry of Transport, and hotel chains to find alternatives to falling US visitor numbers, cruise ship arrivals and flights, by identifying alternatives markets and to promoting Cuba as a destination.

Describing 2019 as “a rather complicated year”, he said the Cuba’s Tourism Ministry was convinced that further US measures will follow, but that the country was proactively seeking alternatives. He said that many new measures have been adopted which have seen an overall 10% growth in arrivals by air and he forecast a year-end arrivals figure of 4.3m visitors.

Marrero noted that as his recent visit to China had indicated, its tour operators and those from many other destinations were interested in increasing visits by their nationals to Cuba, but a problem remained with how they might reach Cuba. The Ministry of Tourism was he said, working with the Ministry of Transportation to prioritise airlift and “facilitating the conditions for (such visitors) to fly here, even lowering their prices”, he said.

Speaking specifically about the collapse the UK’s Jet2Holidays and Thomas Cook, he said that Cuba was speaking to other tour operators that do not yet operate in the Caribbean in order to try to make up the shortfall of 95,000 visitors.

He forecast a good high season and a positive 2020 in terms of visitor numbers, noting that despite the difficulties Cuba faced, tourism did not stop. Government, he said, was maintaining the country’s emphasis on prioritising tourism investment and was continuing to remodel hotels and build others in order to complete an additional 4,000 rooms this year and another 4,200 during 2020.

Meanwhile figures produced by Cuba’s Office of National Statistics and Information (ONEI) indicate that in the first ten months of 2019, Cuba saw a 7.9% decrease in total arrivals, from 3,866,934 in 2018 to 3,563,005 this year. Total tourist arrivals from the USA, which comprised 12.7% of all arrivals, fell by 13.5% from 521,846 in 2018 to 452,442 in the first ten months of 2019. Arrivals from Canada, which comprised 25.2% of all tourist arrivals, fell by 0.5%, from 903,275 in 2018 to 899,120 in the first ten months of 2019. In June 2019 the Cuban government revised sharply downwards its estimate for 2019 full-year visitor arrivals to 4.3m from an original goal of more than 5m, an 8.5% drop from the 4.7m reported last year.

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