International Tourism in Cuba Slumps, but National Tourism Up

Foto: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES – The arrival of foreign tourists to Cuba continued a slowing trend in July, down 0.5% from the same month of 2013, according to data released this past weekend by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information.

The island received during the July 55 thousand visitors than in the same month last year, and in June there had been a decrease of 1.4 percent.

The results of this summer are out of the general trend of the semester, since statistics show that in the first seven months of the year the number of foreign visitors increased by 3.4 percent.

In 2013, Cuba received a total of 2,852,572 million passengers, an increase of 0.5 percent over 2012; while this year the country aims to attract over three million visitors.

Canada, Germany, England, Italy, France and Cuban Americans resident in the United States remain the leading source of travelers to Cuba. Tourism is the second leading foreign exchange earner behind exports of medical services.

Domestic tourism grows in Varadero

Varadero beach. Foto: Juan Suarez

The domestic tourism market grew 21 percent at the Vardero resort, Cuba’s top beach destination, compared to the same period of 2013, reported Girón weekly.

During the first half of the year more than 112 thousand Cubans living on the island visited Varadero, close to 23 thousand above what was achieved in the same period last year.

Cuban hotel chains Isla Azul, Cubanacan, Gran Caribe and Gaviota are responsible for accommodation for holidaymakers visiting the town, located on the northern coast of western Matanzas province.

To stimulate tourism among Cubans, Isla Azul invested in fixing up vacation houses to imprve conditions for this popular mode of accommodation.

9 thoughts on “International Tourism in Cuba Slumps, but National Tourism Up

  • Less tourists from Europe…? Do not forget-currently Europe has economic crisis.REALLY.

  • I agree with you, the statistics don’t support building a further 14,000 rooms. Not all Cuba’s tourists are run of the mill package tourists and the Iberostar in Trinidad is frequently booke out. The truth is that the regime wants hard currency and that related to tourism is predominantly obtained from capitalist countries.

  • I was down to Varadero in August and it was paceked with tourist from South America. Gordon Cubaking Robinson Port Alberni B.C. Canada

  • I’m always confused when I hear people say they DON’T think Cuba is a good travel deal. Even when I’m deliberately considering going somewhere else, I still end up going to Cuba specifically because nowhere else even comes close to matching the pricing for the Cuba packages. I really do want to give the Cancun area a try (especially to see the Mayan ruins), but the cost differential is just to big to ignore.

  • January through June was up 3.9%, but July specifically was down 0.5%. So more people in total are coming, and more of them have shifted to coming in the winter rather than summer.

    When more and more of the visitors you’re getting are Canadian, this makes complete sense. Canadian winters are harsh, we are willing to pay to get away from it for at least a little while. Our summers, on the other hand, are generally very nice, the pull of a summer vacation to a tropical destination just isn’t there. So much so that Sunwing (the largest provider of travel services from Canada to Cuba) doesn’t even offer trips to Cuba from my province in the summer months anymore

  • “Build it, and they will come!” but will they? Could be an expensive boondoggle. And why would folks who could afford $350/noc vacation in Cuba, rather than exclusive resorts or hotels in other nations? In any event, Cuba should appeal to many sectors of the market, rather than just the upscale market. The latter policy could wind up being a latter-day “cargo cult,” or like those less imaginative post-industrial cities and towns in the States trying to entice another industry to move to town and fill the void left by manufacturers who moved to China. Latest stats reveal that 54% of all wealth in the U.S. is now accumulated to the top 3%. Seems like a greater and greater frenzy to entice a smaller and smaller % of the population with the resources for such vast discretionary spending. OTOH, both as a vacation destination, and as a winter refuge for snowbirds, Cuba could be more and more attractive (as nations like Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Equador, etc. have already become). With a little renovation, all those abandoned schools-to-the-countryside could be rahabbed into winter condos for Northamerican retirees.

  • Glad you had a ball and your description of places visited gave me many happy memories, Cuba is a beautiful country with wonderful people. You are correct also in saying that many retirees and semi-retirees could go to Cuba and I too would encourage them.
    Yes, you had a great time for what is to us a modest cost, but just think emagicmtman your $2,000 represents eight and a half years earnings by the average Cuban but only five and a half years earnings for my wife as a teacher with her Masters (Maestria) degree and holding a very responsible position.
    The Iberostar Hotel in Trinidad de Cuba is ranked by many as the best in Cuba (see TripAdvisor). So, for curiosity when staying in our usual casa particular, my wife and I entered there to enquire the cost of a one night stay. The answer was 350 CUC – which did not include dinner. A buffet dinner was available for a mere 35 CUC. In short, a one night stay with supper cost more than one year’s salary for my wife. Not much wonder that Gaviota under the direction of General Rodriguez intends to build 14,000 more high class hotel rooms.
    As one with some knowledge of the tourism industry, I wonder how they are going to fill them. Obviously the General (with undoubtedly the approval of his father-in-law Raul) is motivated by greed not by available statistics. But filling the Castro family coffers is a priority – corruption free of course.

  • Now that I’m semi-retired, I get to spend more time on my vacations to Cuba, and did so this last trip–Sept. and Oct. of 2012. Despite what some folks report over at Thorntree’s Cuba Branch, that Cuba is not an economical destination, I disagree. Cuba is a great bargain, especially if you know some Spanish and get off the beaten track.
    Starting out in Varadero (after a bargain charter from Canada), rather than just a “fly and flop” vacation, after a few days of recovering from the arduous journey north, from Southern Vermont to Toronto, then south, to Cuba, I spent a few days at the two-star Hotel Dos Mares, then on to Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus (now one of my favorite towns), Ciego de Avila, then down to Santiago de Cuba, and onward to Baracoa, then back to Habana for my final three weeks.
    I stayed at a combination of casa particulares (both legal and “illegal”) and state hotels, traveled by both ViAzul and the Cuba Conectando bus systems, plus taxi particulares, plus Ferrocarilles de Cuba’s “Tren Frances” (2nd class) back from Santiago to Habana. Many hotels were only $28/noc; some as cheap as $18/noc, breakfasts included, of course. Provincial casas were only $15/noc+ meals. In Habana used the Metro-Buses (P-14, P-5, etc.) and colectivo taxis (what we used to call jitneys); ditto in Santa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Santiago and Baracoa. Sometimes, a bici-taxi was the only option available (after a concert of traditional–and not so traditional–trios at the Teatro Principal). Ate at state restaurants (both CUC and CUP), plus paladares and a lot of street food. For two months, spent just a bit over $2,000, plus regalos to my Cuban family. Some of the two- and three-star hotels were actually like mini-resorts, away from town with landscaped gounds, restaurant and bars, pool, semi-detached cottages, etc. (yet only a seven cent bus ride, plus transfer, into town). Though really a one-star, the historic Hotel Santa Clara is right in the center of action, on the Parque Vidal, and at the cultural center a few doors down I happened upon a great concert of danzones played on historic instruments (and some of the band members were historic themselves, having lived most of the 20th Century, and only a few years younger than their 19th Century instruments!) If more retirees (or semi-retirees, in my case) took a little initiative, they could go to Cuba, too, despite being on a limited income.

  • Varadero is best known in Canada as a place for those who like cheap package tours which include the “3B,s” – Booze, Beach, Buffet.
    Predominently the Varadero crowd emanate from eastern Canada – Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes using direct flights from Toronto and Montreal.
    For those from western Canada who similarly enjoy cheap package tours, the attraction is Cancun using direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
    There is some crossover.
    Cuba was desirous of attracting the higher income sector of the market by building for example three hotel/golf course complexes at the western tip of the island and I record seeing glossy video film of the intended developments at a school in our town. Being socialists however with their greedy eyes firmly fixed on the capitalist purse, the Cuban planners failed to address what the rich golfers and spouses would do for entertainment in the evening. No nearby town offerings, no casino, only a hack MC similar to those at Varadero trying to provide some light fun each evening.
    Those weathier international standard course golfing types want a casino. To the Castro family regime, casinoes are the antithesis of their political preachings. Another problem is the deadly “corruption” of developers breaking the rule not to pay employees anything additional to that paltry pittance paid by the regime. These “corrupt” types made additional payments to better employees and got stuck in jail for their crime.
    Not withstanding the meagre increase in tourist numbers, Gaviota SA is intent upon building a further 14,000 hotel bedrooms in the 2015-2017 period to add to the 26,000 they already possess. General Rodriguez as CEO has his hands full in his endeavors to further extend the Castro family regime economic power – no doubt to the delight of his father-in-law President Raul Castro Ruz.
    The whole prospect for Cuba is a combination of the minds of Lewis Carroll and George Orwell. What will the title be?
    BIG BROTHER in Wonderland?
    Alice in Cuckooland?
    1984 revisit in 2017?
    Socialismo paraiso para la familia Castro?

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