Cuba is breaking one record after another, with business for 2016 looking very good too. This has been confirmed at ITB Berlin by exhibitors from Havana and by tour operators in Gemany and in other countries. There are more and more positive headlines: US President Barack Obama together with his wife Michelle, and Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones, who have announced a free concert, due to take place in Havana in March 2016, will be among the visitors. Apart from official dates they will also be enjoying at least a brief tourism programme.
According to official figures this socialist island welcomed more than 3.524 million tourists from all over the world in 2015, a substantial improvement of 17.4 per cent compared with the previous year. This is a result not only of a thaw in relations between the USA and Cuba, but is also due to increased interest from, among other countries, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Mexico and Venezuela, all of which are reporting double-digit growth rates. Canada is currently the single largest market. In 2015 over 175,000 visitors came from Germany, an increase of 26 per cent.
According to unofficial estimates, in 2016 one in ten people visiting Cuba will be from the USA. Washington’s travel embargo is still in force, but group travel from the USA has been possible since the end of 2014. In addition Cuban exiles living in the USA and US citizens have for many years been flying to Havana from third countries such as Mexico and the Bahamas.
Special requests and some unusual tourism ideas are also possible nowadays in Cuba. This was confirmed by Bernd Herrmann, General Manager of Senses of Cuba, whose office is based in Havana. “We can help those people prepared to spend enough money, who want, for example, to enjoy a private evening event in the Cuban capital with business associates, featuring boxing matches between gold medal winners, with champagne and dinner. We have already organized such events for business people from Australia “, says the German operator.
Gerd Deininger, General Manager of Aventoura in Freiburg, points out: “Because many hotels and rental cars are quickly booked up, it is worthwhile taking advantage of the lower off-season rates. May and June are a good time to visit, as are September and October.”
Of course, many vacationers are booking their trips now in order to enjoy the authentic Cuba, fearing that there will be a massive influx of visitors from the USA, with the inevitable effects of mass tourism and higher prices, according to Deininger. “We would like to put people’s mind at ease though, because there will be no immediate lifting of the embargo in view of the current political situation and the imminent US elections in November.”
As Katharina Schirmbeck, Product Manager for TUI, points out: “Anyone planning a trip to Cuba should make their decision soon and book as many services as possible in advance. Currently the situation on the island is developing well, as far as TUI is concerned. We are expecting a further rise in the number of bookings during the course of the year.”