American visitors losing interest in Cuba ahead of Havana’s 500-year anniversary

HAVANA, April 1th  New reports show that there was a 33 percent decline in overnight visitors from the US from 2017 to 2018, and in a recent annual survey by leading travel insurance and assistance company, Allianz Global Assistance,

found that Americans’ interest in travelling to Cuba in 2019 is still on the decline (75.5 percent are not interested in 2019; compared to 74.7 percent in 2018).

This news comes as Cuba’s capital, Havana, is set to celebrate its 500th anniversary in November 2019 and have been preparing for the celebratory events from last summer. According to Allianz’s survey, 90 percent of Americans are unaware of the anniversary celebration this November, highlighting an opportunity for boosters of travel to Cuba.

The 6.8 percent who were indeed aware of Havana’s anniversary said it positively impacts their interest in visiting the destination, while 2 percent say it negatively affects their interest in visiting.

However, the various travel advisories and other US government travel restrictions make people think twice about travelling to Cuba. Also, according to the survey, a majority (63.3 percent) of Americans do not understand current travel restrictions to the island nation, which is likely preventing many from being interested in or planning a trip to the destination.

The preferred method of travel to Cuba is by plane where some 18.1 percent have said that they prefer to visit by plane and just 6.9 percent by cruise ship.

“With Havana making significant infrastructure improvements, including major hotel renovations, and planning cultural activities to celebrate the city’s 500th anniversary, it’s a great opportunity for Americans to visit,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

Indeed, last year Cuba was already on track to see 5,000 new hotel rooms in the coming year, 2018-2019. During this first phase of redevelopment and refurbishment, Havana itself is expecting to see a dozen modern small-scale accommodations in historic buildings that are being restored in neighbourhoods such as Siboney, Miramar and the area surrounding the iconic Plaza de la Revolución.

Also, up to December 2018 more than half of Havana’s 12,000 hotel rooms were said to be now in the three-star category of accommodations and the government is intent on raising the standard through its ongoing investments leading up to the anniversary celebrations November 16, 2019.

The second phase, of the refurbishment campaign, already in execution, spans for just over 365 days and is currently running, starting from November 16, 2018 and will go on to November 19, 2019 while the third and final phase has no ending date in sight and aims to extend and solidify the refurbishment works beyond the city’s 500th-anniversary celebrations.

Despite the structural works already ongoing in Cuba, Durazo also stated that: “Our survey indicates that Cuba scores highly for its resorts and beaches, as well as its cultural attractions, with 34 percent of Americans listing one of these as the top reason for their interest in visiting the island. When travelling internationally, the right travel protection policy may provide peace of mind in case of unexpected travel disruptions or health issues.”

Whatever the outcome, Cuba is ready to receive some five million tourists for the year, 2019, the ministry of tourism in Cuba projected early this year, with some 7.4 percent of growth between 2018 and 2019 the ministry also indicated.

Analysts suggest that the expansion in room choices along with the provision of more 5-star and 3-star hotel choices is the reason for the growth in tourism arrivals as persons now expect to stay somewhere safe and reasonably priced.

Cuba still receives the bulk of their tourist arrivals from Canada as of 2016 according to the annual tourism statistics of Cuba, second then by Cubans that live overseas. Americans rank third followed by Germans, British, Italians, French and Spaniards.

Cuba’s tourist arrivals by country for 2016:

1. Canada 1,205,809
2. Overseas Cubans 427,747
3. USA 284,552
4. Germany 242,355
5. UK 194,815
6. Italy 191,585
7. France 187,468
8. Spain 153,340
9. Mexico 131,353
10. Argentina 94,727
11. Russia 65,386
12. Netherlands 52,613
13. Chile 51,860
(www.caribbeannewsnow.com)