Cuban Tourism Has Collapsed | .TR
Cuban tourism, one of the key sectors of the country’s competitive economy, plummeted 95.5% in the first two months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, explained academic José Luis Perelló.
Cuban’s borders remain open as the country actively encourages visits to coastal areas devoted solely to international tourism to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, numbers suggest that the Cuban tourism campaigns don’t seem to be working well.
“In the first two months of 2021, around 35,600 international visitors came to the island, which corresponds to 4.5% of the 792,507 international visitors recorded at the end of February 2020,” explained Perelló.
Compared to other Caribbean countries and travel destinations around the world, the decline in international arrivals in Cuba is much higher. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated the decline in international tourism at 74%. In Europe the industry has fallen by 70%, in Asia by 84% and in America by 69% according to UNWTO statistics.
For Elías Amor, Cuban economist and professor based in Spain, tourism accounts for barely 6% of Cuban’s GDP “although it has important implications as it is one of the few industries that allows the government to obtain foreign currency”, said Cupid.
“Without foreign exchange, the government cannot afford the $ 2 billion it needs to import food and maintain its inefficient system, nor can it pay the foreign debt to the Paris Club or Russia,” added Professor Amor.
The expert explains that Cuba’s main problem is that the country has already lost the best months of the so-called high season.
“The prospects for a recovery in the Cuban tourism industry have to do with the mass vaccination campaigns in the world and Cuba’s relations with the United States,” said the economist.
The US has cautiously undertaken a long-awaited political shift towards the communist island after four years of hostile exchanges between countries. However, the US government stated that Cuba is not a priority, which is why experts do not believe that travel bans to this country will be lifted immediately.
In March, Cuba finally announced a lockdown following a severe coronavirus outbreak in the country. Shortly before that, the Ministry of Tourism was promoting campaigns in Europe inviting tourists to the island, making unsubstantiated claims that the warm weather prevented the spread of COVID-19.
The island, which is the only country in America to have yet to launch vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 while waiting for its own vaccination trials, opened international borders in September and soon reported its third and deadliest wave of coronavirus.
However, the poor level of tourism on the island is not only due to the pandemic. Emilio Morales, director of Havana Consulting, a Miami-based consulting firm, said Cuba has been facing a tourism collapse since 2019.
“During the Cuban thaw, the US became the second largest tourist market after Cuba, after Canada. The number of tourists visiting the island rose 56.15% between 2014 and 2017 after an increase in American visitors, including the Cuban-American market, ”Morales wrote in a report recently sent to the White House.
The Trump administration’s sanctions, which accused the island of supporting Nicolás Maduro’s regime, took a heavy toll on the industry. The previous US government banned cruises and reduced the number of Cuban airports allowed for flights from the US. In 2019, the island recorded an 8.5% decrease in international flights compared to the previous year.
Pre-pandemic hotel occupancy (an important index for business performance) fell to 43% in the first half of 2019, meaning almost 60% of rooms were empty for six months.
The latest official Cuban statistics also showed that Cuban tourism revenue had fallen to $ 2,645 million in 2019, compared to $ 3,301 million in 2017.