On December 12 the Cuban government announced tourism statistics which reached a little over 4 million this year. Obviously, the totals for year-end are not in yet. Although the numbers did not reach the government prediction of five million, Cuban international arrivals remain strong, ranking the Island as the third most popular Caribbean destination.
Visitors from the United States have been severely limited by the American government which has targeted the rights and freedoms of Americans to travel to Cuba except under very narrow conditions. American airline carriers, cruise line companies and private boats have also been banned by the U.S.
Americans have always represented a small fraction of Cuba’s tourism even after the thaw initiated by former President Barack Obama. Canadian visitors have always made up the largest percentage of tourists, followed by Spain and the Italians. However, tourists arrivals from such countries as Russia and China are on the rise.
An article titled “Cuba tourists barely pass 4 million in disappointing result,” published by AP News, the New York Times, etc. spread like wildfire through the mainstream media with the goal of further blackening the view for readers who are limited in their choice of news sources which often provide incomplete information.
Fewer Americans are visible in Old Havana, but the City is not dead quiet. The majority of those who previously arrived by ship are absent. Americans traditionally don’t venture beyond Old Havana because of the extra cost involved and the fear of getting into trouble with their government.
It is true that the tightening of U.S. sanctions against the Island has severely limited the total number of American visitors to the Island. The banning of American cruise line companies to Cuba reduced that number by approximately 800,000 American tourists in 2019. European cruise lines are still making the voyage.
As a result of the harshening of U.S. sanctions against the Island, private entrepreneurs, their employees and families have suffered a direct hit. Businesses such as private bed and breakfasts, restaurants, taxi drivers, classic car tours, and other types of tourism-related employment, have been negatively affected by American sanctions. This is in line with the U.S. agenda in place since 1961 to create suffering and despair among the Cuban people in efforts to change the government.
However, the picture is not as gloomy as the one painted by the U.S. news story — if one does the research needed to present a more accurate view of Cuban tourism in relation to the region.
In figures obtained from reliable sources such as Travel Weekly, Trading Economics, Central America Data, and Statista, Cuba ranks as the third most popular Caribbean destination. Cuba follows Mexico and the Dominican Republic whose international visitors remain high in spite of recent news of rising homicides in those countries.
Although the final year-end statistics vary in time periods from January to June to October, Cuba’s third-place rank is followed by Jamaica and Costa Rica.