Cubans are taking over spaces foreign visitors are not occupying in the country’s hotels. While some foreign issuing markets, especially Europe, are contracting, the number of national tourists is registering a tendency to grow. The National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) recently reported an 11.9 percent increase in the total of Cuban tourists, up to almost 1.5 million in 2012.
Last year, according to the report, 1,447,422 of the country’s inhabitants stayed in the island’s hotels, at campsites and other tourist destinations. That figure surpasses by more than 156,000 the one registered for 2011 and is equal to approximately half of the foreign tourists who visited Cuba in 2012: 2.8 million.
The number of foreign visitors grew 4.5 percent in 2012, but some European issuing markets, like Spain, registered a marked decreasing tendency. The low in foreign tourists has lasted during the first two months of the current year, according to other ONEI reports.
The revenues contributed by the local guests in 2012 also grew but moderately: 2 percent in a general way, to almost 418 million pesos and 5.5 percent for hard currency revenues: 124 million convertible pesos or CUC (1 CUC = 1 dollar), a much lower amount than that contributed by foreign visitors (more than 1.8 million, according to ONEI).
Domestic tourism has registered a healthy and timely expansion since the government eliminated in 2008 the prohibition for residents on the island to stay in hotels. That measure was approved at the harshest moments of the economic crisis of the 1990s, known as the Special Period, and its objective was to set aside for foreign visitors the limited hotel capacity of the country at that time, when the leisure industry was, moreover, the principal and almost the only support for the Cuban economy.
According to ONEI data, the alternatives with the highest demand among Cubans today includes ecological tourism (for example camping, the cheapest) and the beach, though the city hotels contribute the most revenues.
The island’s tradition of going to the beach in the (boreal) summer months comes in very handy for the leisure industry. Local vacationers cover the usual low in visitors from Canada (the first issuing market to Cuba) and Europe which comes about after Holy Week and is accentuated in the hottest months, July and August.
The subdelegate of the Tourism Ministry in the province of Matanzas, where Cuba’s most famous beach resort, Varadero – with 1.3 million visitors a year – is located, announced in 2012 that Canada is that destination’s principal market, with 45 percent of the tourists, while Cuban nationals rank second, with 12 percent ( http://www.cubahora.cu/economia/varadero-sigue-siendo-varadero#.UWhBuXog7IV).
Among the tourist destinations that are at the head in terms of CUCs contributed by the island’s vacationers are, by order, according to the ONEI, Varadero, the city of Santiago de Cuba, Playas del Este (a hotel complex to the east of Havana), the city of Camagüey, Santa Lucía beach (Camagüey), Guardalavaca (Holguín), Viñales and the cays to the north of Pinar del Río and Baconao beach (Santiago de Cuba). (2013)
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