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Friday, Dec 04, 2020

Tourism to Cuba drops significantly, official figures show

Tourism to Cuba drops significantly, official figures show

The number of tourists and Cuban-Americans visiting Cuba fell almost 20 percent in January compared to the same period last year, according to official figures published Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information. The most drastic fall in the figures was in the case of American visitors, which dropped almost 70 percent.

During the first month of the year, the island received 95,856 fewer visitors than in that month in 2019, a reduction of 19.6 percent. Visitors from the United States fell by 68.8 percent. Cuban-Americans traveled 12 percent less than the previous year.

“It’s a very big fall,” Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, who analyzes the economy of the island, wrote on Twitter.

His colleague Humberto Herrera, close to the ruling party, wrote back that “Trump sanctions” are “in full force” to prevent U.S. citizens from traveling to the island. “Remember that in the first four months of 2019 the growth of [visitors from] the U.S. was (+94.7%) on average,” he wrote.

Cuba restructured the expectations of growth for its tourism industry. U.S. sanctions for the island’s support of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela, including the ban on cruise ships to the island and the cancellation of charter and direct flights to most Cuban airports, are aimed at hitting one of the main sources of income to the government of Havana.

Economy Minister Alejandro Gil said that Cuba expected the arrival of 4.5 million visitors this year.

Tourism is one of the first branches of the Cuban economy and generates revenues of over $3 billion. However, last year registered a sharp decline and hotel occupancy collapsed.

Six out of 10 hotel rooms empty

In September last year, official figures showed that the occupancy rate in hotels fell 6.8 percent, to a 43 percent low. This means that almost six hotel rooms out of 10 have been empty during the first half of the year.

The Cuban government has continued to invest in the construction of hotels hoping that the U.S. sanctions for its support of the Maduro regime will end if another president enters the White House.

The crisis in the tourism industry adds to the difficult conditions in which the Cuban economy operates, weighed down by the inefficiency of government-owned businesses. The main source of income of the country during the last decade, the export of medical services, is also in crisis, coupled with a cut in the subsidies that Venezuela sends to the island.

In the midst of the difficult scenario, Cuba has stopped paying its Paris Club debt and foreign investment has also declined after the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows lawsuits in U.S. courts against foreign firms that invest in property confiscated by the Cuban government.


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