Cuba's crucial tourism industry sagging
Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2007
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP): Tourism, for 15 years the locomotive of the
otherwise weak communist economy, faces erosion from within Cuba and
without, the magazine Bohemia has reported.
In 2006 tourist arrivals fell 3.6 percent, "falling short of plans to
grow by almost eight percent and reach 2.5 million foreign tourists on
our streets and beaches."
Only 2.2 million showed up, the weekly Cuban magazine said in an article
dated May 8.
The number of European visitors slid during the 2007 December-April peak
season. Canadians, most numerous visitors to the Caribbean island, grew
a meager 1.6 percent compared with 2006.
The magazine blamed the slowdown in part on US restrictions on travel to
Cuba, including Washington's tightening of visits by Cuban-Americans to
Bohemia said this cut visits to Cuba by "tens of thousands," reducing
overall visits from North America by 7.5 percent last year.
"Topping it all, last year US investment companies took over a cruise
ship line and a Spanish tour operator … which were automatically
prevented from traveling to the island," it said.
Other factors dampening visitor levels include the high cost of oil,
European tourists' preference for short trips, and the appreciation of
Cuban peso in 2004, which cut hotel investment.
"Foreign tour operators and Cuban hoteliers noted a drop in the quality
of services in the sector."