Tourism to Cuba Collapses in 2019 Despite Aggressive Campaign in China
The communist government of Cuba revealed tourism to the island dictatorship dropped 8.5 percent throughout 2019 — including major declines in tourism from Europe — in statistics Cuban media analyzed on Monday.
Cuba received 3,896,868 tourists between January and the end of November 2019, a significantly smaller number than the five million the regime claimed it was anticipating at the end of 2018 and nearly 400,000 fewer people than last year. The year marked both the 60th anniversary of the bloody communist revolution of 1959 and the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana by the Spanish, events the regime hoped to use to attract more tourists.
The regime blamed tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba by President Donald Trump for the fall in tourism, despite the fact that all tourism by Americans to Cuba has been illegal since the 1960s. This did not stop 475,235 Americans from engaging in tourism in Cuba, however, according to the Cuban government. It is not clear how many of these individuals were Cuban-Americans, as the Cuban regime does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of someone born in Cuba or someone born in the United States to parents born in Cuba, even if they have never been on the island.
President Trump did end a loophole to the tourism ban this year that President Barack Obama implemented in 2016: allowing large cruise companies to sail from U.S. territory into the ports of Havana and Santiago, which the Castro regime stole from U.S. citizens. President Trump has also allowed Americans who lost territory in this way to sue corporations who traffic in that property in American courts for the first time.
The Cuban Communist Party and Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces own all tourism properties on the island. Any money generated from hotels, restaurants, malls, and other leisure destinations in Cuba falls into the hands of the regime, which it then uses to equip itself to injure, torture, and kill dissidents. The Cuban military also controls the socialist regime governing Venezuela.
According to Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) Canada remained the top tourism origin nation for Cuba, sending about as many people — almost one million — as communist Cuba in 2019. The United States appeared in second place — third if one counts “Cuban community abroad” as a country, and the list does not specify if that includes Cuban-Americans. The only non-European country on the list besides the aforementioned is Mexico.
Tourism from Germany, France, and Spain all dropped significantly. Notably, Russia sent about 30,000 more tourists, a 25-percent bump, to Cuba than in the prior year.
China did not appear in the top ten, notable since Cuba is now spending millions in attracting Chinese tourism to fill the void that President Trump plugging in the embargo’s loopholes has left in the regime’s wallet.
In July, public transport buses in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou appeared boasting large murals of iconic sites in Havana, inviting the Chinese to visit the city on its 500th anniversary. The ads were part of a campaign called “Authentic Cuba” by the Ministry of Tourism enticing Chinese people to see the island and experience a fellow communist nation. China and Cuba enjoy close diplomatic relations and Cuba is one of the top Latin American signatories to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s plan to control all global transit infrastructure. The same month the ads appeared in China, Beijing announced that its “trans-Cuba railway” would debut, making it easier for tourists to travel the island.
The railway followed a visit by Cuba’s second-in-command, “President” Miguel Díaz-Canel, to Beijing, where he fully committed to the BRI.
Last week, in another attempt to generate funds for the Castro regime, the Chinese magazine Travelling Scope awarded the Cuban government the label “tourism destination with major potential,” handed to Cuba’s envoy in Shanghai. The envoy declared that the award was a “commitment” on behalf of the regime to facilitate easier flights, hotel bookings, and other amenities to Chinese travelers.