Despite what some international media outlets are reporting, a fuel shortage in Cuba is not affecting the country's ability to support tourism.
This was the main message that Cuba's minister of tourism, Manuel Marrero Cruz had for members of the media, during a luncheon hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board yesterday afternoon (Oct. 8) in Toronto, as he sought to speak his "truth" about the true state of Cuba's economy.
"There is a negative opinion being generated about Cuba that has nothing to do with reality," Cruz said.
According to Cruz, several American and Quebec outlets have been reporting that a lack of fuel (as a result of trade cuts with the United States) meant that some of Cuba's biggest resort chains were closed, because not enough employees could show up for work.
"This is simply not the case," Cruz said. "There are 14,000 tourism workers in Cuba, because they do not take holidays during the high season; it has nothing to do with the fuel situation. Only 20 hotels are currently closed in Cuba, and we do this every low season for two main reasons: low occupation, and because the hotel is undergoing general maintenance."
What's going on, America?
According to Cruz, the negative perceptions about Cuba are a direct result of the Trump Administration enacting the Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which essentially means that U.S. nationals who hold claim to the property are now authorized to file suit in the United States.
Last year, Cuba received 4,732,000 travellers, and the country was expected to close the year at 5,600,000, however now, Cruz said, this projection will not be possible.
"Tourism is decreasing in Cuba because the United States has increased measures of blocking travellers to Cuba," Cruz explained. "Twenty-nine million people went to the Caribbean this year, and 14 million of those travellers came from the U.S., but the only country Americans cannot travel freely to, is Cuba. Even Syria, North Korea, and Iran are okay; all the U.S. government does is advise people not to go. But in Cuba, travel is forbidden by law."
Over on the cruise side, the situation is the same—850,000 cruise passengers visited Cuba from the U.S. last year, and Cuba predicted to record 1.2 million visits, but when the new laws came into affect, the cruise traffic left the country. Major cruise lines, and the tourism dollars that come with them, including Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line were no longer allowed to transport their guests into Cuban waters, and had to redirect their ports of call, meaning tourism dollars were funded into other parts of the Caribbean, and Cuba was left out.
Even Canadians, who are Cuba's largest source market, and who made up more than one million of Cuba's tourists in 2018 who were hoping to cruise to Cuba, could not do so on an American cruise ship.
"Media in Quebec are telling tourists to go to the Dominican Republic because we don't have fuel, but this is false," Cruz asserted. "We are not as bad as the media wants us to be. Tourism in Cuba is operating according to plan, and every tourist who comes to Cuba can walk through our streets and enjoy our culture, our buildings, and our people."
Investing in the future
According to Cruz, big things are happening down in Cuba, and many investments, from new hotels to enhanced technology, are underway.
The Cuba Tourist Board will invest 346 million dollars in tourism-related projects to refurbish existing hotels, and to welcome new builds in some of Cuba's hottest locations, including Havana, who's celebrating its 500th anniversary this year, and recently welcomed the Iberostar Grand Packard.
Four thousand new rooms will open by the end of 2019, and a series of new properties will open in 2020, including the Paseo del Prado in Havana, the Cayo Guillermo Kempinski, and the new Melia Internacional.
Recognizing the changing needs of travellers, Cuba also says it's building its first-ever waterpark, which will be located at Rio Caninar Matzanas.
Wi-Fi is also expected to be available as part of guests' all-inclusive packages at all Cuban resorts in the coming years.
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