Cuba Tourism Crushed Again in 2021 as DR, Puerto Rico Saw Rebounds

Cuba Tourism Crushed Again in 2021 as DR, Puerto Rico Saw Rebounds

HAVANA, Feb. 8th Cuba’s tourism collapsed again last year, weighed down by some of the strictest Covid-19 controls, even as some of its neighbors enjoyed a recovery.

Cuba, one of the hemisphere’s most vaccinated nations, received just 356,470 international visitors in 2021, according to the country’s National Office on Statistics and Information. That’s 67% less than in 2020, and just a fraction of the 4 million annual tourists the island hosted before the pandemic.

Tourism Arrivals

Cuba lags in the recovery race

By contrast, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico recorded sharp recoveries in 2021 as they actively wooed visitors. Others, like the Bahamas, didn’t see massive improvements but managed to stop the bleeding last year. Overall, the Caribbean saw tourism grow 63% versus 2020 — although still 37% below 2019 levels, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organization.

Had it not been for a policy change in November, Cuba’s numbers could have been worse. The island dropped its mandatory quarantine period and eliminated testing requirements for vaccinated incomers that month. As a result, almost a third of all visits in 2021 occurred in December.

With tourism representing approximately 10% of the nation’s pre-crisis gross domestic product, a new year with new rules could contribute to getting the country back in business. Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said the industry’s recovery will help the economy grow some 4% this year, twice as much as in 2021.

Most travellers to Cuba last year came from Russia (146,151), followed by Canada (68,944) and the Cuban diaspora (52,804). The island only received 7,039 U.S. visitors in 2021, down from 58,147 in 2020, the agency said.

Cuba largely shut its borders in 2020 as it developed its own Covid-19 vaccines, which it has now administered to 88% of the island’s population.