Cuba sees surge in foreign tourists, hopes for more Russians
Havana (AFP) – The number of foreign tourists visiting Cuba so far this year is up nearly sixfold from the 2021 period but remains below pre-pandemic levels, the government said Saturday.
Officials say they are hoping to see more Russian tourists once flights canceled because of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war are restored this year.
The National Statistics Office (ONEI) said 834,891 tourists visited the island from January through July, compared to 141,293 visits in the first seven months of 2021.
International tourism represents Cuba's second-leading economic activity, after the sale of medical services, but the pandemic, along with continuing travel curbs from the US, saw the numbers collapse in 2020 and 2021.
The total number of foreign visitors plunged from 4.2 million in 2019 to one million a year later.
But with Covid-19 under better control, Cuban authorities hope to hit 2.5 million visits this year.
The Communist-ruled country is counting in particular on a revival of tourism from Russia, which in 2020 and 2021 displaced Canada as the largest source of foreign visitors.
The Cuban ambassador in Moscow, Julio Garmendia, last week told Russian newspaper Izvestia that efforts are underway to restore canceled flights by this winter.
"We know that the Russians are eager to again vacation in Cuba, and the Cuban people are waiting for them with characteristic hospitality," he said, the official Cubadebate blog reported.
Data from ONEI, however, show Canada this year is again the leading source of tourists, at 258,896.
© 2022 AFP