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Local authorities discuss Cuba’s growing tourism and plans for future

Members of Cuban Parliament recently gathered in the Attention to Services Commission to discuss the current situation of tourism in the island. Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero Cruz and his peers highlighted the industry’s positive results (with a 19.7% increase in comparison to 2016), addressed ongoing issues and reviewed long-haul plans for the future of this sector in the island.

Local authorities discuss Cuba’s growing tourism and plans for future

During the past month of November, Cuba had received 4 257 754 international visitors, a sum that reflects a 19.7 per cent growth in comparison to 2016. This outcome is a true achievement taking into account the difficulties tourism in the island faced this year. In order to validate fruitful initiatives and address the challenges that lie ahead, members of Cuban Parliament gathered last week in the Attention to Services Commission.

The devastation Hurricane Irma brought to several hotel facilities and other tourism-related services was one of the main difficulties Cuba endured in 2017. Another negative factor was the fact that Canadian tourists (historically the number one market for Cuba travel) did not meet the expected sum, due mostly to the weakening of the country’s currency in the international market.

Nevertheless, Minister of Tourism Manuel Marrero Cruz declared that the industry had grown and blossomed in spite of the difficulties. During the debate in parliament before the Attention to Services Commission, Marrero mentioned that the fact the country had received 17,230,650 international tourists and accomplished the foreseen plan in 81.5 per cent reflects that various initiatives that were put into place in 2017 had been effective. Some of these measures included recovering tourist circuits and event groups, new flight operations during high season and cruise ship activities. This last one reported more than 397,500 visitors on its own.

In 2017, Cuba’s Council of Ministers had also pledged for the sustainability of tourism and the importance of protecting the environment. Authorities approved a set of measures to face global warming and work towards eco-friendly tourism in long-haul plans for 2050 to 2100. A law for the protection of the island’s coasts was approved as well as project “Tarea Vida” which aims to demolish the facilities that have been built over dunes and relocate these hotels and residences to other spots that don’t harm the nation’s natural ecosystems.

Marrero went on to explain that investments had been fulfilled to 78,1 per cent, given the fact that there were still difficulties concerning investment processes, due greatly to bad planning of works and delays in the arrival of supplies and railcars. As a matter of a fact, tourism is currently not receiving the equipment needed for car rentals; a situation that should improve next year when the 9000 vehicles requested start entering the island.

Other inconveniences for the development of tourism in Cuba are visitors’ low satisfaction levels on specific issues like the lack of road signs, the trickiness of currency exchange and the poor hygiene in cities. According to Marrero, these matters are all being addressed by a government commission and there are already several proposals that look to increase the number of ATMs, as well as initiatives to work on the cleanliness and health conditions of the cities, starting from local entities and authorities.

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