Cuba will open the largest tourism trade show in Latin America today.
The four-day Meetings and Incentive Travel Market convention will see international hotel associations, tour operators, travel agents, conference organizers and other travel industry stakeholders gather from around the world.
The Communist government-sponsored event is almost certainly Havana’s attempt to revive a COVID-19-hit tourism industry which normally accounts for 10% of GDP. Cuba’s COVID-19 border closure and the resultant 67% drop in annual visitors in 2021 is commensurate to less than 10% of 4.3 million arrivals in 2019. Tourism earnings are an important source of foreign exchange for the one-party state beset by the largest unrest since the 1959 revolution.
However, Cuba is well behind other tourist destinations in the region which opened its borders last year. Visitor numbers to Cuba have remained sluggish since borders reopened in mid-November 2021 and the traditional high tourist season in January suffered an 80% drop in arrivals.
Therefore, next January will be the litmus test of efforts to revive tourism. Still, Cuba is likely to struggle to regain its pre-Covid heights in the near-to-medium term—not least because of an ongoing US travel ban—contributing to economic malaise and continuous unrest.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.