Tourism becoming Cuba’s second economic pillar
Record tourist arrivals to Cuba spurring economic growth.
HAVANA, Cuba, Monday, July 2, 2012 - Almost one and a half million people have visited Cuba in the first five months of 2012, a new record according to the Cuban National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI).
And, the increasing development and improvement of service quality in Cuban tourism could turn it into the island’s first or second major economic sector in the future, predicts the Dean of the Tourism Faculty at the Havana University, Lourdes Cisneros.
Cisneros made this prediction as he addressed over 200 foreign experts in the area of tourism research, who gathered recently for the Second International Tourist Studies Conference at Havana’s Conventions Palace.
According to ONEI, there has been a 5.5 percent growth in tourist arrivals over the same period as last year, and arrivals have been showing a steady increase since February this year.
In 2011, 2 716 317 people arrived in Cuba, which translated to revenues of over US$1.7 billion dollars driven by tourism spend on transportation, accommodation, retail and food services.
Cisneros told participants at the conference that there had been an increasing flow of visitors from countries traditionally not considered significant sources of tourists for Cuba in previous years, particularly in Latin America.
However, he said growing relations between the island and Latin American nations was better positioning the island’s tourist industry to become a major economic sector.
Cisneros also identified the United States as a potential major source of tourists for Cuba in the future, if current US restrictions on the island were lifted due to strong international pressure against America’s unilateral blockade measures, He said if this did occur, Cuba would be ready for it, since the island has the necessary infrastructure to receive American tourists.
According to ONEI, over the last four years the month of May, which is considered low season by the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), has seen the number of arrivals increase, with up to 7.1 percent more arriving in 2012 compared to 2011.
That figure does not include the revenues of the self-employed sector, whose presence in the tourist industry grew considerably in 2011, thanks to the new measures implemented by the Cuban government.
Domestic tourism also grew, and some 1.3 million Cubans stayed at MINTUR facilities generating over US$117 million dollars income for this industry.