The Cuban Tourism Sector and its sustainable management

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As 2017 draws to a close, the indicators for tourist arrivals to Cuba show there were significant improvements compared to previous years. The most significant outcome is the cumulative growth of 26% in the first eight months after having had to deal with the ravages of Hurricane Irma and the packet of restrictive measures the US Republican government placed on journeys and transactions made by its citizens. 

The rapid recovery from the damage to tourist facilities meant the high season could start, in the middle of November, with a cumulative total of 4,260,000 visitors and an accommodation supply of 67,800 rooms in 382 hotels, 88 of which are managed by 20 international hotel chains. 24,000 rooms in the private sector should be added to that infrastructure to arrive at the complete accommodation supply for the current tourist season.

Last year also showed Cuba´s potential for developing cruise tourism since it received almost half a million cruise ship passengers and more than 140000 crew members.

Particularly visible in this landscape were arrivals of visitors from the United States --about 600,000-- – becoming the second most important market after Canada, which sends more than one million holiday makers to Cuba. Added to that is the growth of arrivals of Cubans who live abroad and from the main European source markets, as well as those from Mexico, Argentina, Russia and China. Altogether they total some 4.7 million arrivals to the Island in 2017, for a growth rate of 17% with relation to the year before.

This year which is drawing to a close represents a stage of rethinking international tourism in Cuba and marks the movement to a new stage in which supply is increased and diversified by incorporating new varieties such as urban tourism, nature and adventure tourism, nautical tourism, tourism dedicated to all varieties of sport, golf, health, culture, cruise tourisms. Cultural tourism, with more creativity and awareness, puts the focus on authentic national characteristics, such as historical-heritage elements and music tourism under the slogan Cuba is vital music

2017 also made it obvious that the goals of sustainability and adaptation to climate change are essential for the future development of tourism. In this sense, the Cuban tourism sector is prioritizing the actions that originate in the Tarea Vida[1], directed at preserving beaches, coasts and sea beds, eliminating tourist facilities on the dunes, spreading sand to repair damaged zones, preserving mangroves, decreasing the structural vulnerability of our heritage buildings, encouraging the reuse of water for fertile irrigation of golf courses, hotel and resort lawns and increasing the use of renewable energy sources for means and equipment. In these efforts, the constant up-dating of plans for risk reduction, facilities protection and tourist security are essential tasks which have shown lately how effective they are in the light of the weather phenomena which have ravaged many of the Caribbean's tourist destinations.

2018 marks a new stage in the development of tourism in Cuba which is looking to reach 5 million international visitors and move on to a model which is both intensive and inclusive and stresses a policy that combines  supply diversification with the search for new market segments, with greater expenditure in the most visited destinations, with an improvement in perceived quality and a consistent relationship with Cuban cultural identity of all tourism products and services both in their entirety and in their numerous public and private components.

 The challenge that both Cuban and foreign executives must accept is that of meeting these goals and improving professionalism; everyone who works in the Cuban tourism sector must make an effort to achieve more and more efficiency and proficiency in their work and bring in more income and profits for the Cuba economy which will result in more benefits for everyone in spite of the huge restrictions caused by the blockade kept in place for so many years. In this scenario, the private sector is called on to play a much more active role which could guarantee the quality and authenticity of the new tourism consumption and fits perfectly with the key links of tourism's value chain: lodging and spaces for leisure and eating out.

On the other hand, the conviction still exits that tourism is the sector best equipped to revitalize the other productive sectors of the Cuban economy, thus improving the welfare of society as a whole; then...achieving those aims will allow us to take back lost ground.

Traduction: Janet Duckworth



[1] E.N. The Cuban strategy for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

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