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Will tourism return to Cuba, as the regime hopes?

'It is important to remember that the tourism influx had already started to decline before Covid-19.'

Los Ángeles
Construction of a hotel in Havana.
Construction of a hotel in Havana. Diario de Cuba

Raúl Castro, his assistant Miguel Díaz-Canel and the entire Cuban ruling mafia seem to believe that once the doors to international tourism swing open on November 15, jubilant vacationers from all over the world will travel en masse to the island.

They are wrong. They still have not grasped that July 11, 2021 marked the beginning of the end of Castroism as we know it today. They do not understand what is happening in the country, that its economic, social and political crisis is already irreversible, and that they cannot deal with it with the same bravado of half a century ago, without paying a price, since they no longer have any political-ideological capital.

Machiavelli, the theorist of the modern state, affirmed that "to govern is to make people believe."  That is what Fidel Castro, and his brother did for a long time. But today, especially after 11-J, the dictatorship can no longer make anyone believe anything. The popular cry of "Patria y Vida" (Homeland and Life) is quite eloquent.

The revolution in technological communication has made the once omnipresent and omnipotent propaganda machine obsolete. It no longer works, either inside or outside Cuba. The dictatorship can no longer make the world believe how "well" it has handled the Covid-19 pandemic, and continue selling the notion that a paradisiacal "social and political tranquility" reigns in the country, ideal for vacations.

There are several factors that will now prevent mass tourism to Cuba.  In countries where the pandemic has been controlled and the population is well vaccinated, they will not risk going to Cuba, whose government let the country’s public health system collapse while earmarking billions of dollars to build hotels for the military, but only 28 million to that devastated sector, turning Cuba into the country with the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the Americas by refusing to receive vaccines certified by the WHO, in order to create its own and earn millions by exporting it.

In addition, the Cuban economy is suffering a crushing recession that will have no solution until Communist statism is dismantled, as it is incapable of offering quality service to tourists.

No more "peace and security" as a lure to attract tourists  

In addition, and this is key, thanks to the revolution in global communications, the fascist repression in Cuba is known to the world. The tropical island ceased to be the "safe paradise, without social and political tensions" that Castro's propaganda sold to the world. Except for Haiti, no other country in the West is more socially, politically and economically rattled than Cuba, which is now totally and visibly militarized. The Castro myth of "peace and security" to attract tourists has been shattered.

Cuba will not be able to return to Castroism’s phony "normality" prior to 9/11. There will be no massive flow of tourists to an island impoverished as never before in its history and whose people are shouting "Freedom" and "Down with the dictatorship" in the streets.

The few tourists arriving now in Cuba on 15 November, and afterwards, will see streets and squares treaded by riot troops, uniformed minions, and brigades of civilians recruited from among those willing to collaborate as thugs, what Marx called the "lumpen proletariat," armed with sticks and trapping citizens in their homes to prevent them from taking to the streets, or beating up peaceful demonstrators.

Many tourists will regret the mistake of having chosen Cuba and not another Caribbean country. Others, most of them, already know that it would be a fiasco to go to Cuba. They have been warned, and will not do so.

Through the independent press and social media worldwide, it is known that 600 Cubans are imprisoned for having participated in the demonstrations on July 11; that prosecutors obedient to the tyranny are asking for sentences of more than 20 years in prison for young people who went out to demonstrate on July 11 and 12, since the dictatorial leadership ordered them to try them - even teenagers - for the crime of sedition. Kendry Miranda, 17 years old, is being asked for 20 years in prison.

Young Emy, Yosney and Mackyani Román Rodríguez are face sentences of 15, 20 and 25 years, respectively. Roberto Pérez Fonseca was sentenced to 10 years in prison for breaking a picture of Fidel Castro. In total, 75 11-J demonstrators could receive sentences between 15 and 27 years in prison, according to the organization Justicia 11J, which had access to two files containing the prosecutors' requests.

Even before the pandemic, tourism in Cuba was in a downward spiral

But what makes it more likely that after November 15 there will be no resurrection of mass tourism in Cuba is the regime’s absolute inability to offer good service and compete with other tourism locations in the Caribbean due to the devastating economic and financial crisis wrought by Castroism.

It is important to remember that the influx of vacationers had already begun to decline before Covid-19. In 2019, before the pandemic, 4.2 million tourists traveled to Cuba, 436,352 fewer than in 2018, and almost one million fewer (800,000) than the five million that the dictatorship had counted on.

Most significantly, not only did fewer Americans travel due to the sanctions applied by the Trump Administration, but far fewer tourists traveled from Canada, the largest source of visitors to the island, and from Spain, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany and other countries in Europe and Latin America. Visits to Cuba from the five main European senders of tourists fell by almost 30%.

The hotel occupancy rate on the island at the end of 2019 plunged to 14.7%. In other words, 85.3% of Cuba's tourism accommodations were empty, something unheard of and that did not occur in any other country.

At the end of 2019 the Dominican Republic had a hotel occupancy rate of 68.3%, and recorded a 72% average for the entire year. In said year the neighboring nation received 6.4 million tourists, who spent US$4.468 billion. Cuba’s 4.2 million tourists spent 2.903 billion.
In 2019 in Panama 1.7 million tourists spend 4.521 billion; in Costa Rica 3.1 million tourists spent over 4 billion; and in Jamaica 2.6 million visitors spend over 3 billion. These are all official figures.

It is also worth mentioning that Cubana de Aviación's few planes can no longer fly to Europe because they do not meet the EU’s minimum requirements to operate in European airspace. Thus, the Castroist airline makes its few flights to the Old World in planes rented from the Spanish airline Plus Ultra. Thus, now when Cubana goes transports tourists from Europe, a good part of the revenue does not go to Cuba, but rather to a foreign company.

Things were quite different when Cuba was "exploited by imperialism:" at the end of the 1950s, according to historian Alvaro Alvarez, Cubana de Aviación had 17 airplanes and was carrying some 300,000 passengers, many of them in Super G Constellation planes, the largest, most comfortable and modern in the world at that time.

There will, definitely, not be millions of tourists in Cuba, but even in the hypothetical (improbable) case of many naïve and uninformed tourists arriving on the island, together with Russians carrying Covid-19, or socialists, or people who not at all sensitive to human suffering, how would ordinary Cubans who are not self-employed and depend on tourism benefit?

They would not. The revenue generated would not be used to import food, medicines, hygiene products, fuel or raw materials. Rather, it would swell the coffers of GAESA, and of the dictator Raul Castro and his cronies, perpetuating their grotesque dolce vita.

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