Cuba visitor numbers expected to break records, despite Trump and Irma

Posted: 13-Nov-17 08:44

Cuba hasn’t had the easiest ride this year, as diplomatic issues with the US resurfaced, one of the most powerful storms in Atlantic history battered the northern coast, and a mystery illness left the country on a list of no-gos for Americans. Nevertheless, you can’t argue with the numbers.

Cuba visitor numbers expected to break records, despite Trump and Irma

The number of foreign nationals that have been to Cuba this year has already reached 3.8 million at the time of writing, with the final tally for 2017 expected to hit the 4.7 million mark, according to a report on Havana Times. If that happens, it will represent the highest recorded level of tourists to ever arrive on the Caribbean island.

This is all despite some serious setbacks over the course of the last 12 months. Ongoing threats made by US President Donald Trump to roll out stricter laws for Americans looking to visit the country following an easing of regulations under the previous administration finally came to fruition over summer, for example, and while the changes were far less severe than some feared, they were still significant.

This was then followed by September’s Hurricane Irma devastation, which although less catastrophic on Cuba compared with many other islands in the region, still caused huge problems, particularly in northern areas which are among the most popular with sun-hungry holidaymakers. In addition, the outbreak of a mysterious illness amongst staff at the US Embassy resulted in a travel warning being issued, instructing Americans to avoid the island due to its health risks.

The 3.8 million figure was released at the end of October, which is just ahead of the official "high season" for Cuba, which begins on 1st November. Cuban Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero, had more good news still, explaining that the onset of the peak vacation months would be easily handled by the island’s rapidly expanding hotel options and greatly improved infrastructure.

“Within that large number of hotels, we have more than half operated through 88 contracts with 20 international chains, a measure always focused on preserving our ownership of the facilities and taking advantage of the experience of our foreign partners.”

Said Marrero.

Tourism is one of the key economic priorities for Cuba, with hopes for more than 103,000 hotel rooms available by 2030, with particular attention being paid to those with unique elements, for example golf courses or theme parks. While this may be a way off yet, what’s clear is that right now nothing seems to be able to cool the heat of Cuba’s global appeal for visitors, presidential or divine intervention included, which is part of the reason why so many travel experts have adopted a "go now or risk the island changing" attitude towards recommending this corner of the Caribbean to vacationers.  

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