European, Canadian tourists to Cuba down
Tue Nov 14, 2006 3:53pm
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Nov 14 (Reuters) – The number of tourists arriving in Cuba from
Europe and Canada has fallen, according to a Tourism Ministry report
seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
The number of tourists from Canada was down 1.9 percent in September
from last September, the number of tourists from Spain fell 5.7 percent,
Italy 15 percent, and Germany 9.8 percent and France 5.2 percent, with
only Britain showing an increase of 5.7 percent.
The report gave no reason for the drop.
But industry sources said the communist-run Caribbean island has put
less emphasis on tourism as a key driver of its economy in recent years
as discounted oil from Venezuela, a boom in medical and other service
exports and spike in nickel prices eased economic pressures.
Industry sources said earlier this year that partly because of changes
to exchange rates, Cuba was becoming increasingly costly and less
profitable for foreign tour operators, some of whom were switching to
other Caribbean countries.
The Canadian Association of Tour Operators complained this year to the
Cuban Ministry of Tourism about the lack of adequate service for
tourists, theft at airports and hotels, and jet fuel costing 33 percent
more than elsewhere.
Canadians are the most numerous at Cuba’s beach resorts, followed by
Europeans. Few Americans visit the Caribbean island due to a four-decade
U.S. economic embargo and travel restrictions.
Cuba reluctantly opened up to foreign tourism and investment when its
key trade and aid partner the Soviet Union collapsed a decade ago.
Around 50 percent of Cuba’s 44,000-room hotel capacity is managed and
marketed by foreign companies, including Spain’s Sol Melia (SOL.MC:
Quote, Profile, Research), France’s Accor (ACCP.PA: Quote, Profile,
Research) and Jamaica’s Sandals and Super Clubs.