Cuba is flooded by mainly American tourists

The tourist invasion on Cuba, in 2015 started, is unstoppable. The tourists are discovering new destinations on the island, cities, towns, and villages are drowned.

© Reuters

Cuba is experiencing a true tourism boom, especially by the invasion of tourists from the USA. That offers a unique opportunity to see the Cuban economy back to life, say experts. But then the private sector more room for manoeuvre.

The tourist invasion on Cuba, in 2015 started, is unstoppable. The tourists are discovering new destinations on the island, cities, towns, and villages are drowned. Even on the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, the best-preserved colonial square in Camagüey, meet every day, hundreds of foreign visitors.

American tourists

Camagüey, the third most important city of Cuba, is located in the centre of the Caribbean island. “94 percent of our customers are foreign tourists, the half comes from the United States,” says Noble Izquierdo, who in 2012 Restaurante 1800 opened on this square.

He had seventeen years of experience in tourism, state-owned enterprises and decided to become an entrepreneur. His family had a property on one of the corners of the Plaza de San Juan de Dios.

Currency needed

According to experts, tourism is the only Cuban sector in which the state is the economic engine of the country back to work. Last year, Cuba had four million tourists. It can be the currency needed to yield to the liquidity crisis to soften.

In the leisure sector thrives, the private initiative as never before, the absence of official statistics about its actual share.

“In Camagüey, there are too few restaurants like this,” says Izquierdo. The government fails to the tourist boom to catch. The private sector is diving in that hole, but that is not enough always.

Promotion via the internet

On the yellow walls of Restaurante 1800 hang pictures of within – and foreign celebrities, such as the Cuban singersongwriter Pablo Milanés and the Italian singer Zucchero. In the high season, from december to april, Izquierdo a team of twenty people to the 100 to 150 customers to operate each day and on the floor.

Most of Izquierdo’s customers come via contracts that he has with the tourism state-owned enterprises. “We have the capacity to many people to convert, we are well located and do our promotion especially via the internet.”

His restaurant is also in five major tourist guides.

“Now you see tourist clusters in the private sector, including houses that rent out rooms, restaurants, bouwcoöperaties, taxi drivers, furniture companies and farms,” says the American economist Richard Newfarmer, who last month along with fellow Richard Feinberg, a study presented on Cuban tourism.

No competition

In places like Trinidad, 300 kilometers from the capital, “catch the staatshotels the wave of tourists who are not in private rented homes to go,” he says. “There is no competition between the private and state sector, they complement each other.”

Trinidad is blessed with an exceptionally well-preserved historical core, an excellent beach, and the group Guamuhaya. In the first eleven months of 2016, the number of foreign tourists by 30 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

Most of the dynamism comes from the private sector, says the local government. The state manages 200 rooms, while there are 2,600 rooms in private homes. There are 92 restaurants. The private tourism sector sets seven thousand people work in this town.

The same image in the mountain village of Viñales in the far west, and in Baracoa, in the east of the country – just to name a few examples.

Turning point

“Cuba is at a turning point, because the new tourist markets such as the US onboard,” says Newfarmer.

© Reuters

Of the four million tourists last year came the great majority from North America and Europe. Only all Canada was good for 30 percent of the total number. But new are the tourists from the USA. Those were with 284.937, an increase of 74 percent compared to 2015.

In 2015, recovered Havana and Washington, their diplomatic relations. This was coupled with a relaxation of the terms and conditions between the two countries.

104.000 rooms

In their study recommend Newfarmer and Feinberg Cuba, among others, the quality of the tourist services to boost supply diversification, more foreign and private investments to make it possible, the internet to improve the tax policy to be revised and tourism with other sectors to connect.

“Private companies play undeniably an important and dynamic role in the tourist industry,” notes the publication.

Cuba now has about 65,000 toeristenkamers in staatshotels and 17,000 in private homes, according to the ministry of Tourism. By 2030 it wants Cuba there 104.000 count.

Embargo lifting

About a third of the tourism revenue in Cuba goes to the private sector, too, Newfarmer and Feinberg. That speaks to the American argument against that only the Cuban government would be better of the American tourism, they say.

They recommend that the government, the industry and the civil society in the US, the economic reforms in Cuba to support the Us tourism to the Caribbean island all the way to deregulation, and the economic and financial embargo to be lifted.

(Ivet González, IPS)

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