European and Canadian tourism ‘vital’ after loss of Russian market

Photo by Philip Myrtorp 

28th March 2022

Cuba’s Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, has said that in the absence of Russian visitors, it will be vital to strengthen the presence of tourists in Cuba from traditional source countries such as Canada, the UK, France, and Germany. He also noted that it will be necessary “to bet on the Latin American market and do more to promote offers for the domestic market.” 

Speaking at the annual ‘audit’ meeting for the sector, Marrero, formerly Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, said that to achieve the sector must apply new methods to promotion and marketing to demonstrate internationally the diverse and natural character of the product Cuba has to offer.  

It will also be necessary to study the competition more, he told participants from the industry and government. “Marketing is more aggressive; it is necessary to dare more and rejuvenate [tourism]. We live in different times and therefore we must act differently, revitalise ourselves, and not continue using conventional methods”, he said. 

Accepting that Cuba is experiencing problems in obtaining the supplies necessary to ensure a high quality of service, he said that the country “cannot lose a second in looking for alternatives and finding solutions utilising national resources.” 

In his reported remarks, Marrero set out several priorities aimed at revitalising tourism. These included designing new offers; encouraging multi-destination tourism; transforming the Cuban tourism business system by developing more innovative companies in the sector; consolidating existing businesses to increase efficiency; and seeking out the largest possible number of linkages within Cuba with other sectors such as agriculture. He also stressed the importance of those in the industry promoting the idea of continual maintenance, recovering rooms that are unserviceable, and computerising every aspect of tourism. “We need a more efficient and sustainable tourism”, Marrero stressed. 

Introducing the event, President Díaz-Canel, had told participants that the sector’s recovery was essential for the country’s economy. Tourism, he said, needed to be more innovative, do more to encourage social interaction with visitors, ensure good experiences, and involve Communist Party cadres in encouraging improvements in the quality of services. Tourism he said, “gives us prestige and shows our country with all its potential.”  

Cuba’s President additionally highlighted the need for the industry to take advantage of new measures introduced by government which enable independent management and decision making in the state and non-state business system. Tourism entities, he said, “have the function of leading the chain with the non-state sector”. 

The greatest investment dynamics in the country in recent years, he noted, had been in tourism, a fact “not always understood by a part of the population.” He also stressed the importance of increasing the number of individuals in the industry with doctorates and master’s degrees related to organisational and managerial issues, who are able to innovate and find solutions to the problems the sector needed to address. 

Other speakers observed that despite the uncertainty following the exit of Russian visitors from the Cuban market, Germany and the UK had begun to fill the void, arrivals from Poland and Belgium were increasing, and the Canadian market, previously Cuba’s most important, was recovering. They also noted that there was a need for municipalities where tourism existed to include the industry in their development strategies in order to promote investment in productive chains.   

Cuba continues to forecast some 2.5mn arrivals this year, despite the loss of the Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian markets. Data from Cuba’s National Statistical Office (ONEI) show arrivals increasing in January and February, with 281,286 Cuban ‘travellers’ living overseas (who are counted separately) and 185,749 visitors (largely international tourists) arriving in the country. Pre-pandemic, in January and February 2019, Cuba saw a total of 949,035 arrivals and in 2020, 792,505.  

Cuba lost its rapidly growing Russian tourism market almost overnight at the end of February following its invasion of Ukraine and subsequent overflight bans, currency transfer restrictions, and other sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus by the US, Europe, and other nations. 

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