Diaz-Canel says tourism is a development priority

Cuba’s President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has said that tourism is a priority for the development of Cuba, but it must be better integrated with other parts of the economy to maximise its benefits.

Speaking to a meeting of a government commission on tourism he described the industry as the locomotive of the Cuban economy and as generating the greatest income. Noting that impressive progress had made since the 1990s, he said that to increase the industry’s economic contribution, the country must further develop its linkages with agriculture, renewable energy, and new technologies.

“Many products that could be produced in the country are still imported (to support tourism) which makes this activity more expensive”, Granma reported him as having said.  “To that end, each agency has to rethink its relationship with tourism to meet the high demands and needs of the (sector)”, he told the meeting.

Cuban reports noted that the Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodríguez, accepted that the quality of some food stuffs such as citrus fruits were not of sufficient quality to meet the requirements of the tourism sector and were consequently continuing to be imported. He however hoped this could be remedied. A direct link had been established between agricultural producers and hotels and the delivery of fresh products, both agricultural and processed, was increasing, he said.

At the meeting the Minister of the Food Industry, María del Carmen Concepción said that investments undertaken in food production were now leading to a timelier response to demand but that tourism sector related problems with packaging and raw materials persisted.

Among the other issues considered were waiting times at airports, which were said to have been reduced; the upgrading of airport air conditioning, catering facilities, customs services and baggage handling; improvements to the quality of internet connection in hotels; plans to ensure that every hotel has Wi-Fi technology; and the development of camp sites and facilities in every province.

The report suggests that Cuba has not only recognised the strategic importance of tourism to the Cuban economy but the need to integrate it more closely into the wider economy in ways that many other Caribbean nations have so far failed to achieve.

Granma indicated that to this end the commission is meeting monthly under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, with the objective of increasing visitor arrivals, elevating the quality of the Cuban tourist product, and accelerating the substitution of imports.

Cuba received 4.7m tourists in 2017 and has reported that up to the end of May of this year, despite the fall-off in US travellers, there had been 2.2m arrivals or 93% of the figure recorded over the same period last year.

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