Cuba: Facts about Tourism

Posted: June 19, 2014 by jennroig in Articles, English
Tags: , , , , , ,

Just on April 2014, the Cuban Statistics Office (ONE) reported the arrival of 287.103 tourists to the Island.

This is not a huge number. By comparison, Canary Islands received 956.407 tourists that same month.

However, if we look at the numbers for longer periods we may find some surprising trends.

Here you can access the interactive chart I created with DataWrapper to see the actual trends. The data shows the total numbers for the period between 2006 -2011, as well as specific data about tourists’ countries of origin. If you want to find out how many tourists visited Cuba from China, Colombia, Spain and many others among the principal senders, even the USA, the numbers are there.


– Surprise #1: To realize that the arrival of tourists actually has increased. There was growth even after 2008, when the world economy was suffering from the impact of the financial crisis. Moreover, another report from ONE comparing the numbers for the period between January and April, years 2010-2014, further supports that conclusion.

This is pointing to a single, very important argument: whatever the causes are for the renewed scarcity affecting Cubans for the last few years, it has nothing to do with tourism. Unless, of course, numbers wouldn’t be accurate and ONE would be lying.

top five tourism to cuba– Surprise #2: Canadians have been by far the primary visitors, the growth has been steady, at odds with the rest of the countries. The lines for England, Spain, Germany or Italy, even though quite flat, the trend is toward a decline. I will risk saying that Canadian tourism to Cuba is mostly families who go there to all inclusive beach-resorts, and come back again to enjoy warm sea waters, the security of the streets, and a sort of more familiar rapport that they create with Cubans on the service sector.

Meanwhile, a lot of young single Europeans go to Cuba drawn on the one hand to the political context, to check first hand all the media versions. On the other, there’s a lot of sex tourism going on in Cuba. That’s why a lot of Cuban young men and women went to Europe either married or with fiance visas. And that’s why I found a lot of bad reputation for Cuban women there.

– Surprise #3: Italy ranks 3rd, above Spain. For the reputation of Italians as couch potatoes, it seems that they actually like to check out the Caribbean, or at least Cuba. They travel to Cuba in bigger numbers than Spanish, which is interesting given the historical and cultural ties between Spanish and Cubans.

Now, the following doesn’t surprise me by itself. It shows how tourism from European countries has decreased, especially since 2008.

EuropeIt makes sense, considering the economic mess that the European Union has been dealing with for years. I would expect to find that numbers for 2014 are even smaller. In 2011 the Euro crisis was spiking. To this point, the situation in Spain, Italy or Portugal haven’t improved that much.

That leads to a question: if Europe hasn’t been sending more tourists to Cuba, how come total number has been growing?

Latin American countriesThe chart for the Latin American countries seems to suggest a possible answer. Tourism from those countries has been on the rise for the same period. As the emerging economies in Latin America grow, and middle classes grow and have more access to credit for consumption, Latin Americans are traveling more.

Thus Cuba’s stats for numbers share similar patterns as other countries within the region. Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Mexico, just to name a few, they have all reported the increasing arrival of Latin American tourists.

Will that be the case by the end of 2014, after the impact over these economies of the Chinese economic slowdown?


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