What would have happened to tourism in Cuba without Obama and without Trump?

HAVANA, Feb 9th The Cuban authorities, as well as various academic media, have focused on the decline of American tourists, the result of punitive measures established by the administration of Donald Trump against Cuba, as the reason that explains the previous trend. According to these preliminary data, the number of North American visitors totaled 498,067, for a decrease of 22% compared to 2018.

It is indisputable that from the thaw produced in the relations between the United States and Cuba, under the administrations of Obama and Raúl Castro respectively, the visits of American tourists to the island increased significantly. Although before 2014 the number of such visitors barely reached 100,000, by 2018 they accounted for 638,000, making the United States the second largest market, behind Canada.

A similar impulse was the segment of emigrated Cubans, who for the same year reflected a figure of just over 600,000 visitors, for a 66% increase compared to 2014.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, and without forgetting the importance that American tourism represented and represents for Cuba since 2015, the responsibility of that market has been oversized in the results exhibited by the activity recently.

To put it in its proper perspective: the massive influx of visitors from the northern neighbor in recent years, which caused a greater dynamism in the growth of tourists received, which helped Cuba to reach the record number much faster. 4.7 million visitors, stimulating the perception that the island could reach 5 million by 2019.

I did the exercise of analyzing the behavior that Cuban tourism would have had without taking into account the extraordinary growth in the number of American tourists.

We assume that there were no flexibilities in trips to Cuba and, therefore, the flow of visitors from the northern neighbor remained at the figure of 100,000 visitors per year (somewhat higher than what Cuba received before 2014) and considering the results obtained in the other markets (including the segment of Cuban emigrants).

This resulted in that between 2015 and 2019 the number of tourists would have grown at an average annual rate of 5.3%, closing the year 2019, even with growth: the figure for that year would have been 3,877,491 visitors, 4% higher to the previous year

The average growth for the period that was obtained with the simulation is higher than the one shown with the real data of the North American tourists and that was of 4.9% annual average.

The simulation revealed several conclusions:

1) The goal of the 5 million tourists would take a little longer to be achieved, but tourism on the island would have maintained its steady growth even without the extraordinary contribution of the North American market.

2) The participation of traditional markets has continued to play a role in the behavior of the sector, despite the fact that the Canadian market has slowed its dynamism.

3) The emergence of other non-traditional markets, such as Russia and China, have contributed to the growth of tourism on the island. It should be noted that Russia has become the third issuing market, surpassing the other European countries.

But the most relevant conclusion of that exercise is that tourism in Cuba should not continue to develop based on what the North American market could contribute. As it has been experienced in the last five years, there will be no stable flow of tourists from the United States as long as there is no normalization of relations between the two countries, and that possibility has no fixed date of completion.

On the contrary, the priority that the Cuban authorities must assume in their analysis based on the statistics provided by the ONE is to focus attention on those factors on which Cuba may have some impact and that are hampering the growth and efficiency of the sector. . They are:

Analyze why the growth of Canadian tourists has slowed. Between 2019 and 2014 it has decreased by 5%.
The fall in the level of use of hotel capacities. For 2018, this use did not reach 50%, but even in the years of the resurgence of the North American market, the figure ranged between 50% and 60%, while the average in the Caribbean was 70%.
The decrease in the average number of days the tourists stay. While in 2005 that indicator reflected a value of 8.7 days, in 2018 it was 6.6 days.
Worrying fall in the amount of income by tourists. In 2005 it was $ 1,035 USD and in 2018 it was $ 616 USD.

First published in Oncuba