Cuba’s Revenues from Tourism Fell 10 Percent

Herald Tribune: Cuba welcomed 1.37 million tourists from January to June, or 2.7 percent more than in the same period in 2008, official figures show. But due exchange rates and the world crisis, revenues has fallen 10 percent.

Cuba’s tourist arrivals will increase this year despite the global economic recession, but tourism industry revenues are down 10 percent, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said.

“The exchange rates, especially those of the pound sterling, the euro and the Canadian dollar, have had an impact on revenues,” but “a recovery is already being seen,” Marrero told reporters in Havana.

Cuba welcomed 1.37 million tourists from January to June, or 2.7 percent more than in the same period in 2008, official figures show.

Tourism industry officials told Efe that the increase in tourist arrivals in the second quarter came at the expense of Mexico, where there was an outbreak of swine flu, prompting operators to change destinations.

Regarding the possibility that U.S. President Barack Obama might lift restrictions on Americans’ travel to Cuba, Marrero said the island was working to develop tourism “for the whole world” and was not “sitting, waiting for the arrival of American tourism.”

Visits by Cubans living abroad have increased 20 percent, the tourism minister said.

Obama recently eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans wishing to travel to the island so they can now visit their families every year instead of every three years and can stay as long as they want.

“We are averaging nearly 6,000 Cubans in hotels these days,” Marrero said.

In March 2008, President Raul Castro’s government lifted the restrictions on Cubans staying in hotels.

The tourism industry is not “exempt” from the economic adjustments being made by the government to save energy, reduce imports and increase productivity, Marrero said.

Cuba is experiencing a severe economic slump caused by the global economic meltdown and exacerbated by the $10 billion in damage caused by three hurricanes last year.

The government has revised its 2009 growth forecast downward from 6 percent to 1.7 percent.

“We have reduced spending and plan on increasing revenues, but none of the adjustments are aimed at affecting quality and service,” the tourism minister said.

The tourism industry is “guaranteed” all it needs to “operate with quality,” Marrero said, adding that there was “an investment plan that is continuing to be executed” to “improve comfort at facilities” and build new ones.

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