Cuba’s domestic tourism registers “meteoric” increase, experts say

Cuban tourism has experienced “meteoric” growth in the last nine years, with 991,122 hotel-hosted nationals in 2016, a landmark record in the sector, according to a study by the Havana-based Havana Consulting Group (THCG).

This is a very striking fact given the rise in prices experienced by the tourism sector on the island by the “avalanche of North American tourists,” mainly Canadians.

In fact, the massive arrival of North American tourism led to an average increase of more than 95% in room prices in 2016 compared to the previous year.

“This unexpected growth in national tourism has taken the Cuban tourist industry by surprise,” Emilio Morales, chairman and general manager of the company, said in a THCG Business Report article, which helps to understand the Cuban market and its consumers.

The largest international tourist destination was Canada, with 1,198,917 visitors to the island in 2016.

If in 2008 the number of Cuban national tourists who stayed in the hotel chains of the country was only 61,508, as of 2009, when the then president of the United States. Barack Obama released remittances and travel to Cuba, the number of Cubans began to grow year after year.

Thus, in 2016 the number of domestic tourists rose to 991,122, which means a “tremendous growth of 1.511%, according to the THCG.

Two factors are weighing on this increase: increased travel to the Caribbean island of Cuban-Americans and growth of the private sector on the island.

One thing to keep in mind is that, according to a study conducted in 2014 by the THCG, 37% of Cuban-Americans who traveled to the island stayed in hotels with their resident relatives for at least one weekend.

A trend that has been increasing, to the point that currently “it is estimated that about 45% of Cuban-Americans who travel to the island are staying in a hotel with their relatives for two or three days.”

On the other hand, the growth of the private sector has increased the purchasing power of hundreds of thousands of Cubans. The THCG report that was accessed today shows that in 2016 almost one million Cubans stayed in the four hotel chains operating in Cuba.

94.15% of them stayed in the chains with the prices of the highest hotels: Cubanacán (34.58%), Gaviota (33.93%) and Gran Caribe (22.64%).

“In 2016, the prices of the different chains were high, which gives us an idea of ​​how far the purchasing power of that new middle class that has emerged in the last years” in Cuba, said Morales in the article.

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