London England — Cuba’s Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, has said that he expects tourism to complete its full recovery in 2023.
Speaking during Cuba’s annual tourism fair, FITCuba 2022, which returned this year after a two-year break after the pandemic, Marrero said that Cuba was now benefiting from the sector’s global recovery. After a period in which tourism everywhere had been paralysed, important agreements had been finalised, he said, with participating tour operators, hotel chains, and airlines.
The Fair was attended by the largest number in the history of the event, a sign of confidence in the recovery of the sector in Cuba, Marrero, a former Minister of Tourism told the media.
Granma reported that some 6,028 people from 54 nations attended, including the tourism ministers of Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina. Cuban reporting highlighted the presence of a large delegation of more than 130 tour operators from Mexico, the presence of 17 foreign hotel chains, 38 airlines, and 16 new tour operators from France, Argentina, the UK, Bolivia, and Chile.
In remarks at the opening of the fair, Marrero stressed the safety of Cuba as a destination and its achievement in bringing the pandemic under control through the development of its own vaccines. He noted that despite the complex context caused by the US embargo, Cuba had not stopped developing the industry, saw it as vital for the development of the economy, and as offering an opportunity to involve the country’s newly independent economic actors in its strengthening.
In other remarks at the Fair, Juan Carlos García, the Minister of Tourism, said that government was optimistic about recovery in the short term. This was demonstrated, he said, by the arrival in the first four months of the year of more than 450,000 tourists, leading Cuba to believe it might achieve its target of 2.5mn visitors this year, a difficult task he observed, but not impossible.
Regarding the country’s main markets, Garcia said that Canada was recovering in addition to Europe, and that Cuba had not yet given up on the return of the Russian market. He also highlighted the increasing number of flights and the growing demand from Britain.
Speaking in more details about the hoped-for return of Russian visitors, García said that Cuba aspires to rescue what had become its principal visitor market during the pandemic. “The Russian market will continue to have our highest priority. We are already working to rescue it”, he said, observing that it would always be somewhere between the country’s second and fourth source market.
New ways of connecting both countries are being sought so that “tour operators can find other air routes” he said, noting also that work continued on the use of Russia’s Mir bank cards in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Speaking at the closing of the four-day event, García told participants that although the 2022 event in Varadero had focused on Cuba’s sun and beach product, culture and sustainable and inclusive tourism represented much of the sector’s future. For this reason, he said, FITCuba 2023 would be held in Havana from 2-5 May next year and be dedicated to Cuban cultural heritage.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council