Cuba Hosts Spanish Influencers to Boost Fallen Tourism

The Grand Packard hotel on the Paseo del Prado in Havana is sponsoring a salsa class with choreographer Roclan González, the director of Ballet Revolution, for the “influencers.” (Facebook/Enjoy Travel Group)

Since their arrival, they have been bombarded with salsa and cooking classes, catamaran trips in Varadero, rides on brightly colored vintage US cars, and Cuban-style “safaris.”

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – Under the hashtag “Travel unites us,” at least 25 young people arrived in Cuba on July 8, who were characterized by the official press, without hesitation, as “the most important Spanish influencers.” With about 120 million followers altogether on their social networks, they were invited to the Island as part of a strategy to try to reactivate tourism, which continues to fall since the pandemic.

The trip, which takes advantage of the recent inauguration of an air route from Barcelona to Havana, was organized by Enjoy Travel Group, a Spanish tour operator, the talent agency Nickname, which brings together influencers, and several foreign hotel companies with facilities in Cuba.

Figures such as Carlota Boza, actress in the Spanish series La que se avecina; the twins Paula and Aitana Etxeberría, known for their Twin Melody profile; Marina Rivera, winner of La Velada del Año III, a boxing event among content creators; Julia Menu, the Tiktoker with the most followers throughout Spain, and about a dozen other young influencers have been welcomed with all the luxuries in hotels such as the Iberostar Packard, Meliá Internacional de Varadero, Royalton Prado and the Canadian chain Blue Diamond.

Other local agencies such as Gaviota, Ecotur and Cubatur, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, have also sponsored excursions and events that included a reception at José Martí International Airport with mojitos, flowers and a Cuban music quartet on the arrival of the Enjoy Travel Group flight.

The young people arrived on the Island in business class seats, through a flight organized by Cubana de Aviación and the Spanish airline Plus Ultra. Since their arrival, they have been bombarded with all kinds of events, which have included cooking classes; salsa dances with choreographer Roclan González, director of the Ballet Revolution company; trips through the best areas in Havana in brightly colored almendrones (American cars from the 1950s); catamaran crossings in Varadero; a Cuban version of a safari to the Saturno Cave (Matanzas) and a boat trip on the Canímar River (they were not told that this July 6th marked the 43rd anniversary of  the massacre of 56 people in that place by two Navy patrols); and, as the influencers themselves boast on their networks, food that includes lobster “seven days a week.”

The “young talents,” who are delighted with the wonders available to tourists and banned for the Cuban population, have filled their social media with paradisiacal images in the line of the Cuban Government’s propaganda in their intensive campaign to attract more tourism.

Nickname, the agency that represents the influencers, refused to offer their names when this newspaper contacted its sales manager. However, the social networks of their customers have been filled with comments from thousands of followers who soon recognized them and who question the intention behind the trip to Cuba, criticizing their link with the regime.

Claudia Tropiezos, a Cuban YouTuber living in Spain, recently alluded in one of her videos to some of the Spanish travelers, accusing them of destroying everything that Cuban influencers, “who know the truth [of Cuba],” had managed to expose, and she called the regime “hypocritical” for sponsoring the visit while “they don’t give food to the people.”

Enjoy Travel Group debuted on June 29 as a marketer of the A340 Barcelona-La Habana charter flight that has been held every Thursday on a weekly basis. The aircraft, with 275 seats, is part of an agreement between Cubana de Aviación and Plus Ultra. In addition to the charter line, available with a price starting from 799 euros, the agency offers tour packages throughout the country.

Likewise, the agency offers multi-destination tours from Mexico, where it manages 15 weekly trips to the Island: nine from Cancun and two for each of the other three cities, Mérida, Mexico City and Monterrey.

On the inaugural flight, members of different “familiarization trips” arrived in Cuba.These are promotional trips that are offered to tourism-related agencies so that they know the “product” first-hand. The Cuban representative was the actor and sports commentator Hector Villar, presenter of the program Jugada Perfecta.

Internationally, the project has been joined by the travel agencies Nego and Team Group, as well as others of Italian origin. Enjoy Travel Group also signed agreements with tourism companies such as Ávoris, Club 5 Estrellas, Viajes el Corte Inglés and the German TUI, to reinforce the intense promotional campaign to return tourism to the Island.

During the last year, the Cuban Government has taken desperate measures to attract customers to the numerous recently built luxury hotels that remain 84.4% empty, according to the latest official data provided for the month of May by the National Office of Statistics and Information itself.

The most recent projects included familiarization trips for journalists, the invitation of 400 travel agents belonging to the Spanish tour operator DIT Gestión, based in the Basque Country, and the call for the Santa Maria Music Fest in the Cayería Norte, which invited international musicians such as Tito El Bambino, Charly & Johayron, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Ñengo Flow, Fixty Ordara & Ja Ruley, and the Cuban Isaac Delgado.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

3 thoughts on “Cuba Hosts Spanish Influencers to Boost Fallen Tourism

  • Things are really bad in Cuba. I was just there. I am married to a Cuban and we continue to have a host of family and friends in La Habana and Guantanamo. I have been told stories about how bad things were during the Periodo Especial and the the people who lived through that time thirty years ago are telling me that the situation is worse now. The fabric of Cuban society during the Special Period was strong and unified. Now, after 30 years of suffering since that time, the Cuban people have no emotional reserve to weather the current situation with the same aplomb. A handful of European “influencers” are like using a teacup to bail out the Titanic. Cuba is salvageable but only through wholesale change. Until the generation of “historicos” and their suck-ups are dead and buried, this change is likely impossible.

  • I am a US citizen & since my first trip to Cuba in 2014, I’ve visited 4 more times; a total of 5 visits, with the last 3 visits spending a month at a time. I had plans to return in 2020, but you know know what happened…
    Here’s my concern…as much as I would love to return, I feel it wouldn’t be right to visit as I would be taking away much needed resources from the Cuban people. I have read about the shortages, the even longer lines—there were lines for basic goods even before the pandemic—& the every day deprivation of life there. There’s no doubt in my mind that all “the best” is saved for tourists & that doesn’t seem fair. It is a dilemma that is hard to come to terms with…

  • “influencers” are not necessarily promoters. Vladamir Putin is an example, his influence deters hundreds of thousands of former tourists from the Western democracies to Cuba, to spend their time and money elsewhere, as they detest his invasion of Ukraine and deplore the groveling support given by Diaz-Canel and his side-kick Marrero, to Russia’s naked aggression.

    As at one time the Executive Director of Tourism for one of Canada’s provinces, I can say that so-called “influencers” influence, cannot be measured. But freebies are attractive to all especially the avaricious. Who can blame a bunch of young European people for draining some of Cuba’s last few pesos, by taking a free ride and living it up?

    Canada was by supplying over 40%, Cuba’s largest tourist source prior to Covid. Juan Gomez had Transat, Sunwing, Air Canada and WestJet flying in daily. Now, Transat has been bought by Porter, and Sunwing by WestJet. WestJet are not flying to Cuba until October 30. Transat and Sunwing are gone. Air Canada has ceased flights to Havana, but is doing five flights per week to Varadero – with some empty seats. I say that with a marked degree of regret, for I much admire the Casa Particular owners and the people of Cuba. They are sinking ever deeper into the financial morass of poverty which has been nurtured by political incompetence.

    It becomes ever more saddening to reflect upon the potential future for my now 12 year old God-daughter.

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