Cuba has been racing from one record to another, but there is a limit to everything. Following the massive boom in tourism that accompanied the thaw in political relations with the USA two years ago, growth has now slowed down. After recording 3.5 million visitors in 2015 and 4.035 million in 2016, the Tourism Ministry in Havana is expecting some 4.2 million from all over the world in 2017. Compared with the double-digit expansion of the previous years this would represent just a five per cent increase, it was reported on the Cuba stand in Hall 22a at ITB Berlin.
With more than a million Canadian tourists, mainly vacationing in Varadero and on the small islands off the north east coast, that country remains the most important market. According to the Cuban tourism office, in 2016 more than 242,000 German visitors came to the island, a 38 per cent increase over the previous year.
Havana is a very popular destination, especially for tourists from the USA, and some parts of the capital are now bursting at the seams. Young tourists from the USA in particular tend to make bookings at short notice for a short trip to Havana around the end of the year. Experts report that these visitors tend to stay in private accommodation and “party hard”.
Officially Washington still imposes a travel embargo, but since the end of 2014 certain forms of group travel from the USA have become possible. In 2016 some 285,000 US citizens, a substantial, double-digit increase, visited the Caribbean island. In addition US citizens have been flying to Cuba from third countries such as Mexico and the Bahamas for many years.
Gerd Deininger, general manager of Aventoura, says: “There are still vacancies, especially at beach resorts, for example Varadero and the Cayos in the north. In general prices on the island are not rising at the rate they did during the boom year immediately following the thaw in relations. In fact the cost of package tours and round trips has slightly declined in some cases compared with last year."
Deininger added that because of the generally good level of demand, “the off-peak season in Cuba is becoming shorter all the time. June, and mid-August to early October, are relatively cheap months, with a wider selection of hotels and rental cars.” However, Havana is one of the exceptions, and from the German viewpoint the capital is seen as over-priced in some respects, in terms of hotels, car rentals and restaurants, according to tour operators.
For anyone in search of the real, authentic Cuba the east of the island offers many attractions. For example at the 37th International Tourism Fair Fitcuba (3 to 6 May) in Holguín is focusing on round trips and on the east of the country. Germany has been invited to be the partner country at this event. The Cubans are hoping that the coastal areas, beaches and towns such as Holguín, Santiago and Baracoa will attract increased interest.
Cuba is now also willing to accept special requirements and more unusual tourism ideas, as confirmed by Bernd Herrmann, General Manager of Senses of Cuba, whose office is located in Havana. Guests requiring customised travel arrangements “are coming from the USA, Australia, Netherlands, Russia, Germany and other countries.” For guests from Australia, for example, Herrmann has already organised exclusive boxing matches by Cuba’s Olympic stars, accompanied by champagne and the fine food, as well as a baseball game played between Cubans and Dutch visitors, with cheerleaders to support the two teams.
The lifting of the US travel embargo now appears to be a more distant prospect. Nevertheless, hotel investment will have to try and keep pace with a demand that continues to rise. José Reinaldo Daniel Alonso, director general at the Ministry for Tourism, has announced that 4,019 additional hotel rooms will be completed in 2017. “By the end of 2015 there were 64,231 hotel rooms available in Cuba, and on completion of the investment programme in 2016 this figure had risen to 66,547.”
Cuba Hall 22.a, Stand 110
Press contact: Alberto Berbes
Tel. +49 1792086470
Aventoura Hall 22.a, Stand 109
Press contact: Gerd Deininger
Tel. +49 761211 69914
Senses of Cuba Hall 23.b, Stand 212
Press contact: Bernd Herrmann
Tel. +49,152 51510389