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Cuba: European wanderlust subsides – cruise market increases significantly

Cuba’s boom in tourism is slowing. In 2018, the number of overnight guests decreased for the first time in a while. Yet the Caribbean’s largest island is expecting a good year in 2019, especially because last year’s autumn clearly pointed in a positive direction. According to assessments by exhibitors and trade visitors at the Cuba stand at ITB Berlin, additional price reductions, particularly in hotels, could bring in a significant increase this year. As a consolation: the number of cruise passengers heading for Cuban harbours has increased so sharply that the overall numbers of guest arrivals by air and sea showed an increase in 2018. This is taken from current statistics provided by the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR).

Due to increased travel restrictions from Washington from November 2017, United States citizens in particular need to rethink trips to Havana, Varadero, Trinidad, the Cayos, and other island attractions. Michel Bernal, Commercial Director for MINTUR, explained prior to ITB that the decrease in flight entries from important European source markets is also unfortunate.

Even Canadians, who most enjoy vacationing on the long beach of Varadero and make up the majority of Cuba’s tourists, have been slightly less travel-happy, going from 1,222 million (2017) to 1,109 million (2018). Similar examples: the USA went from 448,475 to 297,367 and Germany from 201,907 to 165,858. Source markets that have shown a significant increase are Mexico, going from 129,564 (2017) to 147,798 (2018), and Russia, from 98,444 to 127,555. According to MINTUR, the number of air passengers fell from 4,076 million to 3,845 million. Including the rise in cruises, though less important for foreign exchange earnings, statisticians reach an increase of a good 4,689 million, arriving at a total of 4,731 million tourists.

Cruise companies from the USA have been doing good business with Havana for a few years. Larger ocean liners can now dock at more and more harbours on the island. Many US passport holders also fly to Cuba on their own from Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, or the Bahamas, bypassing their president’s restrictions. These tourists are not recorded separately in the statistics, reports the Cuban tourist office in Berlin.

Cuba is expanding its available accommodation with special help from hotel chains such as Melia and Iberostar. The number of state licences for private accommodation – including simple rooms, apartments with sea views, and entire villas – has also increased significantly in recent years.

The market for high-end travel and customised tours has remained quite stable. Bernd Herrmann, General Manager of Sense of Cuba, with his office in Havana, confirms this. He expects abundant business in the niche market, particularly in the autumn of 2019. Some travellers spend the equivalent of 1,000 US dollars or more per day. Herrmann points out that the limited number of rental cars is a significant problem. “At times, there were none. Of course, travel agencies are not quick to forget that Cuba has a shortage of rental cars.” Cuba will, however, purchase new rental cars within the next few months.

Regarding the state of the market, Gerd Deininger, Director of avenTOURa in Freiburg, shares: “We also showed decreases in all segments in 2018. The current year has started well. We are optimistic.” Cuba experienced a boom for several years. Deininger: “It is normal for demand to decrease at times as well.”  He recommends travelling to Cuba in the off-peak months of May, June, September, and, in part, October for sufficient accommodation and low prices.

Bernd Kubisch

Cuban Tourist Office

Hall 22.a / Stand 114

Press contact: Gioacchino Cinquegrani

Tel.: +49 170 54 48 290



avenTOURa Hall 22.a / Stand 110

Press contact: Gerd Deininger

Tel.: +49 761211 69914



Senses of Cuba Hall 22.a / Stand 103

Press contact: Bernd Herrmann

Tel.: +49 152 51510389



photo credit: Stockbilder

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