Cruise Ships Boost Cuba’s Tourism in 2018

Posted: 02-Jan-19 09:02

Greater numbers of tourists choose to travel to Cuba by cruise, pushing Cuban tourism to a new high in 2018. However, cruise ship tourists contribute less to Cuba’s economy than regular travellers overall.

Cruise Ships Boost Cuba’s Tourism in 2018

Thanks to greater numbers of arrivals on cruise ships, tourism to Cuba has reached a new record high this year, according to government officials. This boom has helped to offset weaker exports from Cuba, and a steep decline in aid from Cuba’s key ally, Venezuela.

Tourism to Cuba took a hit in 2017 due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, and the tighter U.S. travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration. Yet, tourism did begin to recover in the second quarter of 2018, as stated the Tourism Ministry’s commercial director, Michel Bernal, during a news conference in Havana’s sea front Hotel Habana Riviera.

However, analysts say that cruise ship tourists contribute less than regular travellers to Cuba’s economy. According to an article by Reuters, the growth in arrivals is expected to have slowed to 1.3 percent in 2018 from 16.8 percent last year, although it reached a new record of 4.75 million visitors - up nearly 60 percent from four years ago.

While arrivals by cruise ships likely grew by 48 percent, largely from the United States, Reuters states that the number of total arrivals by plane is expected to have dropped 6 percent – which means that fewer tourists stayed at Cuban hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, and contributed less to the Cuban economy overall.

Interestingly, Canada remained Cuba’s top tourist market, although the number of Canadian visitors is estimated to have fallen 2 percent to 1.1 million. Arrivals from Cuba’s main European markets — Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany — will likely have dropped between 10 and 15 percent.

Bernal went on to state that:

“The markets that most worry us are the five main European markets where we will concentrate our main efforts next year.”

And added that Cuba also wants to develop potential markets like China, Japan, India and South Africa.

As tourism arrivals are expected to rise 7 percent next year to 5.1 million, Cuba has been fast at work renovating hotels and building new accommodations, hoping to cater for more arrivals ever since the decades-old U.S. trade embargo was lifted.  


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