Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cuba to see record 2.4M tourists in 2009, but discounts hurt revenues

Cuba to see record 2.4M tourists in 2009, but discounts hurt revenues

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuba says more than 2.4 million tourists will come to the
sun-kissed island by the end of the year, up 3.3 per cent from 2008's
record, though deep discounts and shorter stays mean vacation industry
revenues are down overall.

The country will break the previous year's mark of 2.34 million visitors
by nearly 80,000, fuelled by 2,000 new hotel rooms in top tourist areas,
including Havana and Varadero, a white-sand beach north of the capital,
Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said in Thursday editions of the
Communist party newspaper Granma.

He did not say how much Cuban tourism took in and, unlike in previous
years, no information on vacation industry revenue was made public
during the year-end meeting of Cuba's parliament Sunday.

Marrero said in November that his ministry's revenues would fall about
11.7 per cent, as Cuba has been forced to slash prices because of the
global recession.

Foreign visitors generated over $2.7 billion in revenue for Cuba last
year, a 13.5 per cent increase from 2007.

The number of travellers to Cuba has also been boosted by the Obama
administration's decision to let Cuban-Americans with family on the
island visit as often as they like.

It is difficult to measure the change's precise impact, however, since
many are counted by immigration authorities as Cubans - not foreign
visitors - when they visit their homeland.

But companies that operate charter flights say bookings are up 30 per
cent since the White House eased restrictions. The weekend before
Christmas, there were at least 18 flights from the U.S. to Cuba on a
single day.

Previously, Cuban exiles could visit their homeland only once every
three years. Washington's nearly half-century-old trade embargo keeps
most other Americans from visiting altogether.

A top Cuban government official, speaking on anonymity because he was
not authorized to have his name appear in print, said 200,000
Cuban-Americans will visit in 2009, about double last year's tally.

Marrero said Canada remains the top source of visitors, with more than
900,000 coming from that country this year, followed by the United
Kingdom and Spain.

The Canadian Press: Cuba to see record 2.4M tourists in 2009, but
discounts hurt revenues (24 December 2009)

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