Cuba Tourism Cooling Down Or Just Heating Up?
MIAMI (CBS4) — It appears tourism is down in Cuba as fewer visitors from the United States and southern Europe visit the country according to Cuba’s National Statistic Office (ONE).
CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, helped break down the numbers from ONE and reports nearly a 5 percent drop in April of 2013 compared to the same month in 2012.
While the country saw the drop in visitors, the money generated from tourism apparently did not change with a total of $655 million in the first quarter of 2013.
According to tourism experts, the lack of a change in income is likely a result of Cuba moving away from the attraction of low-cost, all-inclusive beach resorts and targeting wealthier tourists while also raising prices.
For example, editor of the Tampa-based Cuba Standard, Johannes Werner, says the already upscale Paradisus Hotel in the Varadero Beach resort, is adding a “Royal Service” category that includes limited-access pools and junior suite. “Obviously, the intent is to draw in bigger spenders.”
ONE’s numbers show tourist arrivals decreased from 288,000 in April of 2012 to 274,000 in April 2013. The drop amounts to 4.9 percent. In addition to a decrease in visitors during the month of April, Cuba saw a 1.4 percent decrease in visitors for the first four months of this year with a total of 1.2 million people visiting the island this year.
The numbers were also broken down to show the countries with the most visitors. Out of 18 countries, the three at the top of the list were Canada with a 1.3 percent increase, the United Kingdom with 8.1 percent and Germany with an 11.8 percent increase in tourists to Cuba.
However, according to the ONE report, the number of visitors from Spain dropped significantly from 6,359 to 3,384 or 29.5 percent from April to April.
Also, ONE reports Italian visitors dropped by 7.2 percent and visitors from France went down by 6.8 percent.
The biggest plunge in visitors is in a category ONE that lumps together the United States and all “other” countries with roughly less than 2,000 tourists.
Those numbers show a 13.4 percent drop from 63,248 in April 2012 to 54,771 in April of 2013.
According to ONE, arrivals from “other” countries decreased from 258,378 in the first quarter of 2012 to 243,782 in the same period of 2013.
Some experts say the drop in visitors to Cuba is a direct correlation to how economies of the countries from which tourists are coming.
For example, Werner believes the decrease in Spanish and Italian visitors shows the financial crisis impacting those countries. Spain’s unemployment stands at 20 percent.
“This shows the continued weakness of the southern European markets, which have been historically strong sources of tourists for Cuba,” Werner said.
Werner speculates the decrease in United States tourists is because of the initial wave of interest in travel to Cuba after the Obama administration began easing travel restrictions in 2008 “has flattened out a bit.”
In February, El Nuevo Herald reported travel industry officials in Miami said only 45 charter flights to the island were scheduled for March, compared to 60 in September.
Although ONE does not report the number of arrivals by Cuban Americans or other U.S. residents on especially licensed “people-to-people” trips — tourism is illegal — the total of those categories was estimated at 440,000 in 2011.
In addition to the number of people visiting Cuba, ONE’s report included hotel occupancy, which saw a decrease from 65.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 63.7 percent in the same period of 2013.
Experts expect to see the numbers adjust in the coming years as Cuba works to draw a new, higher-dollar crowd, and the country adds new golf resorts and marinas.
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