With a review of marketing strategies and in the midst of intense investments to expand the hotel network, the Cuban tourist sector’s authorities welcomed the participants in the 33rd International Tourism Fair, FITCuba 2013, inaugurated on May 7 at Varadero’s Plaza América Convention Centre.
Tour operators, travel agents, representatives of hotel chains, of airlines and other institutions came from 53 countries to participate in the principal commercial market of the tourist industry of the largest of the Antillean islands, which this year returned to Cuba’s most famous beach resort, located some 140 kilometres east of Havana.
In line with the Cuban strategy of strengthening the leisure industry as the economy’s driving force, the government has speeded up the construction of hotels and other installations. Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced during the opening of FITCuba that by 2020 the country aims to increase to 85,000 rooms the current hotel capacity, which is 60,500. This would mean a 40 percent leap in the number of rooms just in seven years.
This year four new hotels will open their doors in Varadero, Trinidad, Cayo Santa María and Cayo Coco. Moreover, hotel installations in other provinces will be expanded and in Havana the famous Capri Hotel, in the centrally located Vedado district, will reopen after being closed for many years.
To that strong investment activity is added the modernisation of airports – in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey and Santa Clara -, the construction of marinas, golf courses, other recreation installations and infrastructure works.
The Tourism Ministry (MINTUR) has also set out to renovate its marketing policies to inject competitiveness to the search for new tourist issuing markets. In the inaugural lecture of the Fair, Marrero admitted there were changes in that sense.
“We have also reviewed the way in which we are making ourselves known in the world, in order to perfect our promotion and publicity,” Marrero said and mentioned steps like the carrying out of “effective market studies,” and the aim of showing the country and its tourist destinations in a different way, with “much more complete messages.”
“Cuba is working for the upgrading of its offer to make it more efficient and competitive,” the minister concluded.
The new change in investment policy and the market strategies point to a diversification of issuing markets especially timely for Cuba at this moment. Last year the reception of visitors from emerging economies and from Latin America made up for the drop in the affluence of tourists from European countries, like Spain and Italy. Tourist arrivals grew 4.5 percent to more than 2.8 million visitors, according to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).
The start of 2013, however, is dampening the expectations of reaching the goal of three million tourists this year, an old and evasive dream of MINTUR.
In the first three months, 0.5 percent less visitors arrived in Cuba as compared to the same period in 2012, according to ONEI. The March record (354,557 visitors, for a 1.3% increase) only cushioned the drops in January (-0.6%) and February (-2.9%), to negatively close the first quarter, a fundamental period: the peak tourist season on the island.
In the face of the European decrease, the area countries are negotiating closer ties and alliances with increasingly more intensity. The development of multi-destination has found ports of convergence in the region, judging by the statements made at FITCuba 2013 by the Tourism Ministers of Cuba, of Brazil, Gastao Dias Vieira, and of Venezuela, Andrés Izarra.
Brazil, the Fair’s honorary guest country, sent a delegation that held talks to strengthen ties with the Cuban counterpart.
Representatives from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Jamaica and Mexico, among other countries, participated in meetings to study or carry out integration formulas in the tourism industry.
“In this world,” Marrero said, “multi-destination has become an essential component that can give a reply to persons who want to optimise their money and time, cover many expectations in just one trip and live different emotions and experiences.” (2013)
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