Tourism recovering – Canadian and Russian visitor numbers steadily increasing

29 April 2024

Cuba is making steady progress towards achieving its objective of receiving 3.2mn tourists this year, but still has far to go to achieve the 4.5mn visitors it received in 2019 before the pandemic.

Figures released recently by the island’s Office of National Statistics and Information (ONEI) show that in the first three months of 2024 total international arrivals numbers grew by 7.5% from 752,431 in 2023 to 809,238 this year.

The figures show numbers from Canada, Cuba’s largest market, increasing by 3.2% to 399,272 in the first three months of 2024 from 387,069 in the same three months of 2023, accounting for some 49.3% of all visitors so far this year.

Notably, visitor numbers from Russia continue to increase significantly as new airlift is added, promotional activity enhanced, and the Russian government actively encourages tour operators, airlines, and investors to take a greater interest in Cuba as a destination. ONEI’s first quarter figures show that Russian arrivals more than doubled, from 32,222 stopovers in the first three months of 2023 to 66,887 in the same three months of 2024.

In contrast, Cubans living abroad, a category Cuba counts separately, accounted for 75,386 of all international visitors arriving in the first quarter of 2024, a figure down from 83,663 recorded in the same three months of 2023.

For the month of March, international visitor numbers arriving were up 6.7% at 281,139 compared to the 263,465 received in March 2023. The arrivals numbers for March this year show, in addition to significant growth from Canada and Russia, the island’s other leading visitor markets were the United States with 46,717 arrivals, and Germany with 22,097. Visitor numbers from other European source markets remained low, however, with Cuba’s principal European markets, France at 19,377, the UK 16,719, and Spain 14,036, all likely affected by US travel regulations. These now require anyone eligible to enter the US under its ESTA visa waiver scheme to apply for a US visa if they entered Cuba after 12 January 2021.

As the year progresses, Cuba is hoping to increase visitor arrival numbers particularly from Latin America. Announcing details of this year’s International Tourism Fair (FitCuba 2024), Cuba’s Minister of Tourism,  Juan Carlos García, recently highlighted the promotional emphasis now being placed on increasing the number of travellers from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, and the rest of the Caribbean. This year’s fair takes place on Cuba’s from 1-5 May in Jardines del Rey located on the north coast of the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey.

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