Cuba’s Tourism Industry Suffers Sharp Decline

By IPS Cuba

The waning number of tourists on Cuban beaches became clear in 2019.  Photo: Jorge Luis Banos/ IPS

The number of foreign visitors coming to the island dropped by almost 10%, the result of both US pressure and European markets sailing stormy seas.

HAVANA TIMES – Tourism dropped significantly in Cuba in 2019, after having experienced substantial growth for 11 years in the running. Recent figures from Cuba’s Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), confirm that the number of foreign visitors coming to the island dropped by 9.3%.

According to ONEI, Cuba received 4,275,558 visitors in 2019 and found itself moving away from the dream of reaching 5 million foreign visitors in a year for the first time, a plan that the Ministry of Tourism had still pushed in the early months of the year.

This blow became obvious as Donald Trump’s administration went at full steam to limit transport options to Cuba (cruise ships and airlines), which was rounded off this year with a ban on charter flights too, as well as a long list of lawsuits and pressure against hotel chains belonging to other countries that do business with Cuba.

After having grown at a dizzying pace over a three-year period, the number of US visitors dropped to 498,067, approximately 140,000 less than in 2018. Washington’s actions were like a slap in the face for travel agencies and US travelers who are hooked on visiting the island, after the rapprochement process began under former president Barack Obama’s government, reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba.

The stream of visitors coming to the island had constantly been on the rise since 2008, really taking off after 2015. In a three-year period (2016-2018), the increase figured at 1 million and it inspired a large-scale investment program for hotels and other installations.

After becoming a normal feature in the Havana port’s landscape, cruise ships belonging to the most important shipping companies have disappeared as the result of pressure from the Trump administration.  Photo: Jorge Luis Banos/ IPS

However, the greatest blow for the Cuban tourism industry came from European markets, as a result of both economic and political problems, especially when one of the most prominent tour operators, Thomas Cook, went bankrupt. The bankruptcy of this British company immediately stopped thousands of visitors from coming to Cuba.

According to ONEI’s report at the end of December, Europe’s five main traditional markets experienced a sharp decline in sending tourists to Cuba: Germany (ended with only 83.9%), France (85.7%), Spain (87.1%), Italy (75%) and the UK (65.1%).

Another important market, Mexico, also finished the year with negative numbers: 84.6%.

Russia took advantage of this situation, to take fourth place as a tourist market, having sent 176,964 visitors in 2019, 129.5% compared with the 2018 figure.

Cuba’s largest traditional tourism market, Canada, remained stable still taking the lead, having grown by 0.9% (1,119,853 visitors), followed by the Cuban community abroad, which was one of the few markets to increase in the year, having grown by 3.9% with a total of 623,972.


22 thoughts on “Cuba’s Tourism Industry Suffers Sharp Decline

  • February 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    Note that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (nicknamed “La Loba Feroza” by the late Fidel Castro) no longer serves the halls of Congress, and that Mitt Romney promised to return to Bush-era restrictions on Cuban American family travel to Cuba and indict the Castros for the 1996 BTTR shootdown during his 2012 election campaign (he was unaware that Fidel was not in power).

    Just imagine if the Trump administration’s failure to restore consular staff at the US Embassy in Havana and the botched nature of Trump’s Cuba travel policies costs Trump the Miami area, and it’s important to know that two Cuban-American lawmakers from New Jersey are Democrats, and that there are three Cuban American congresspeople from outside New Jersey and Florida (Ted Cruz from Texas, Alex Mooney from West Virginia, and Anthony Gonzalez from Ohio). The fact that Menendez, Sires, Cruz, and Mooney were not involved in devising Trump’s Cuba policy would further reinforce the opinion of many that Trump’s sanctions package was about domestic electoral politics, not an ironclad commitment to a free and democratic Cuba. We could see Mario Diaz-Balart lose reelection to a Nicaraguan American attorney.

  • February 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I had planned to stay 6 months but it looks like that will drop if our canadian dollar is only worth half now ,the governments need to reslove this asap ,screw the us embargo its not what helps pay the wages we give to the cuban people ,and i wont be bringing my camera, or my laptop ,now i know that they cant be trusted ,mr president. You need to make a solid move to protect your bread and butter. We canadians dont like thieves ,or to be taken advantage of. I hope my trip there soon will also benifit the right people and help them to keep us coming to your world if not ,not to many canadians will continue to feel as if were being taken for a ride

  • February 8, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    I love Cuba and have lost track of how many times I have been there sometimes in 6 month stretches. Having said that I am disgusted from my last visit at how tourists are being ripped off at all levels in Varadero. I am having second thoughts about whether I will return

  • February 8, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    I could not agree more. The communist dictartoorship destroyed the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *