Cuba has received 605,416 American visitors so far this year, most on board cruise ships, a number that has grown over 2017 despite the increase in restrictions on US travel. and the hardening of the embargo, said today the Ministry of Tourism on the island.
US travelers join 585,600 Cubans living abroad, including Cuban-Americans, for an increase of 17% compared to the same stage last year.
In total, among Americans, Cuban expatriates and tourists of other nationalities who fly from the United States, add up to more than 1.6 million visitors registered so far, Mintur commercial director Michel Bernal told a press conference.
"This market remains the second issuer, after Canada, despite the 'blockade' and the strong decline in flights" as a result of the restrictions imposed by the government of President Donald Trump, which prohibits its citizens from traveling freely to Cuba, clarified Bernal.
This section has been "the highest flow" above the Canadian market, which although it has contributed 1.1 million passengers this year, decreased by 2% compared to 2017.
The vast majority of Americans arrive in the Caribbean country on board cruises, which have already reached about 817,000 so far, which is expected to increase to 850,000 cruise passengers at the end of December.
The rise of this modality is due in part to the fact that the United States Government keeps most of the Cuban hotels on a blacklist and prohibits its citizens from staying and using these facilities, belonging to companies related to the Cuban Armed Forces. .
"This year Cuba will implement a new record of more than 4.7 million visitors, above the 4.5 million reached in 2017, an increase achieved despite the fact that in this period the arrivals by airways decrease by 6% ", Bernal informed.
Even so, the island did not manage to reach the five million visitors it initially envisioned in 2018.
The executive recalled the "serious blow" to the hotel infrastructure caused by the devastating hurricane Irma in September 2017 and acknowledged that arrivals to Cuba decreased in the months of July and August.
From September and October began the recovery in this indicator, an "encouraging" result that places the island closer to its goal of reaching 5.1 million international travelers in 2019.
Cuba broke records of arrival of foreign visitors in 2016 and 2017, when 4.5 came to the Caribbean country and more than 4.6 million tourists, respectively.
This tourist boom coincided with the "thaw" in the relations between the Caribbean country and the United States, which are now going through a delicate moment with the arrival of Trump to the White House in 2017.
The US embargo and the warnings issued to its citizens due to the mysterious health incidents suffered by US diplomats. in Havana, they were a blow to Cuba's aspirations to surpass its previous records of visitors.
Faced with this, Cubans today are promoting a strong campaign aimed at Russia, Mexico, Brazil and China, the fastest growing markets in the last two years, without forgetting their biggest traditional customers: France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy.
The latter will be the next commercial attention center for Cuba, as part of its efforts to improve the indicator of stay for days of international tourists.
To guarantee the quality of the infrastructure, the island plans to improve and increase its hotel capacity, which today amounts to more than 70,000 rooms, 17.6% of them in Havana, the most important pole in the country.
In its development plan until 2030, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism includes 610 projects, including several real estate agencies, golf courses and theme parks, said the Director of Development and Investment of the Mintur, José Daniel.
Daniel said that in 2019 in the Cuban capital will begin to recover emblematic buildings such as the New York hotel in Old Havana and to build new ones in the central neighborhood of Vedado.
The famous Riviera and Habana Libre hotels, administered by the Spanish groups Iberostar and Meliá, respectively, will receive millionaire investments destined to revamp the facilities and adapt them to the latest trends in the sector.
Iberostar will spend 35 million euros and Meliá about 25 million dollars in two projects that will be executed throughout 2019, the executive said.