The Sea Change of Cruise Travel for Cuba
By Betty Hernández
The latest tightening of the Cuba travel ban imposed by the Trump administration has jettisoned the inflow of cruise ships to the island nation’s ports. At this moment, when various media put the crutch that it is far more “complicated and confusing” for Americans to travel to the Caribbean country, Cuban expert José Luis Perelló believes that the current scenario is just an impasse for a future recovery.
In an exclusive interview with the Excelencias Group, Mr. Perelló, a professor at the Faculty of Tourism of the University of Havana and a member of the Chair of Caribbean Studies, spoke about the current state of the industry on the island, the challenges on the road ahead and their prospects for increase.
“The immediate impact from the end of May will render in approximately a 600,000-visitor shortfall, taking into account that the month of May closed with a 2 percent growth in the number of cruise travelers as stacked up against the same period of the previous year. Therefore, we are talking about an accumulated number of 409,000 visitors on board cruise ships,” he said.
“The accumulated number of Americans who traveled to Cuba through May 2019 is 335,350, not counting Cuban-Americans,” he added.
The Cuban academician stressed that although the main permitted routes of travel to Cuba have been slashed, family trips are not off limit at this moment.
“That means we could be talking about an 11 percent uptick in the arrival of visitors by the end of 2019," he added.
“That is a strong impact on the projections of Cuban tourism. My opinion is that what we have to fix every step of the way is not the gross numbers by repeating that the country is going to reach 5 million or 5.1 million tourists, but rather to talk about growth percentages based on the region Cuba is located in”.
THE CARIBBEAN SCENARIO
Cuba shares the scenario of the insular Caribbean and this space has also suffered a decline from outbound markets, especially visitors coming from Europe. Not only Cuba is seeing a decline in the number of tourist arrivals from the Old World,” Mr. Perelló went on to say.
He added that “with growth like the one predicted for the Caribbean (between 2 and 3 percent growth in terms of visitor arrivals), our country can count on a commercial strategy that will lead it to following the trend in 2019”, he added.
THE U.S. POLITICAL STRATEGY
According to Professor Perelló, “all the impact of the current Republican administration is aimed at hindering Cuban tourism, precisely because the government declared it as a strategic sector and that is where the new slew of measures is aimed at.”
That scenario will have to be reconsidered for the 2020-2021 period once new forecasts are supposed to be made, he warned.
“This process that I call “impasse in the tourism development” will allow Cuba to further prepare the travel destination before a possible massive arrival of American travelers, that is, take advantage of this pause caused by the U.S. to continue with the same development plans it has set out to implement,” he concluded.