eTN interview with Cuban Tourism Office Councilor: Major plans for island’s tourism revival
Launched in November 2018, Cuba’s celebration of the 500th anniversary of the founding of San Cristobal de la Habana will end in November 2019. Its busy calendar includes art, culture, dance, theater and much more.
The event coincide with launch of the Government Economic Development Plan which provides for a major revival of tourism – the driving sector of island’s economy. A meeting with the new Councilor of the Tourist Office Sra. Madelén González-Pardo Sánchez made it possible to obtain some details.
eTN: The Italian press have followed with interest your dynamic activity during your brief period of settlement in Italy, are you satisfied with the results achieved to date?
Councilor: It has been an intense activity of meetings with travel agents planning Cuba and other institutions. I found a great spirit of friendship towards Cuba. A positive sign for the near future.
eTN: 2018 was a year of tangible results for Cuba with progress on economy, social and political fields. What strategies are envisaged in the Government’s Plan for the future?
Councilor: “The general guidelines, in the short, medium and long term, indicate the need to focus on the growth of international tourism services and other sectors with the aim to accelerate and ensure sustainability and economic growth, revenues and constant profits diversifying markets, customer segments and maximize the average income per tourist.
Also, maintain the growth and competitiveness of Cuba by diversifying offers, improving the training of human resources and increasing the quality of services with an adequate “price-quality” and relationship.
The importance to apply the most modern criteria in marketing and promotional communication. Non-state activities in housing (case articular: home lodging), in gastronomy and in other services will be maintained in the program of development of the tourist offer complementary to the state one.
Furthermore, consolidate the internal market by creating and diversifying offers that make better use of possible infrastructures, as well as facilitating Cubans to travel.
Continue to increase the participation of the industry and services of the country in resources used in the operation and tourism investment. To the participation of the National industry that should develop long-term financing.
Monitor the artistic expressions linked to tourist activities so that they respond faithfully to the cultural policy outlined by the Cuban revolution.
Last-but not-least, apply policies that ensure the sustainability of their development and implement measures to reduce the rate of consumption of water and energy carriers by increasing the use of renewable energy sources and recycling waste.
eTN: What about the involvement of the Tourism Minister?
Councilor: in the Marketing Plan of Cuba Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero’s short-term investments there are plans involving hotel facilities in the various categories. Some structures have been completed in Cayo Largo at Villa Coral-Soledad, in Isla del Sur and at Villa Linda Mar. The 5th International Varadero structure will be inaugurated shortly. This highlights the re-launch in all categories of hospitality, including the quality of the service offered by the staff.
eTN: What is the receptive power of the island?
Councilor: To date we have 70,839 rooms, of which 71% are managed by five-star hotels, of which 52,000 represent 74.3% located in the Sun and Beach holiday grounds, distributed along 960 km of beaches, including Varadero, ranked by Travelers’ Choice Awards 2018, as the third most beautiful beach in the world.
In general, as part of the development plan and the investment process that took place in 2018, about 5,000 new rooms were completed, including the recently inaugurated Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel in Havana; and the Meliá Internacional of Varadero, which is in the final phase for its next opening.
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In 2019, 5 thousand 249 new rooms are expected to be completed. This number includes the reclassification of hotel facilities that improve the quality of services.
eTN: The increase in reception will require new staff, how is it formed to face their activity?
Councilor: From the hotels and tourism schools, young people come out ready to enter into hotels with the specific qualification obtained. By registering with the government agency, they are sure to find a job.
eTN: What attracts tourism to Cuba?
Councilor: Cuba enjoys exceptional and exclusive conditions for the development of different models, our rich culture, history, tradition, heritage.
From the survey conducted at the end of 2018 it emerged that the main reasons for visiting Cuba are: beaches people, culture and heritage, followed by the security of the destination. And, very important, the returning tourist. The Quality / Price ratio reaches 87.9%, higher than in 2017 and 96.9% of respondents confirmed their willingness to recommend the destination.
eTN: What do you expect from international tourism and from Italy in particular?
Councilor: We are grateful to visitors from all over the world who have contributed to the economic well-being of Cuba. Italians in particular for their long-standing loyalty to Cuba. We hope that the planned innovations will also stimulate new visitors.
eTN: And on the importance of the investments of Italian companies (tourist or commercial) in Cuba?
Councilor: Cuba maintains a strong economic bond with Italy. Among the investors, the Toma Group, in 2018 signed a $140 million investment contract for the construction of hotels in Trinidad. The largest Italian investment in Cuba.
eTN: As for the web information campaign?
Councilor: The plan also extends in the field of digital information. From the official portal www.cuba.travel for marketing and e-commerce and www.cubamaps.cu which offers more than 15,000 tourist attractions, which will become 25,000 shortly. In addition, there is an increase in the WiFi network in all the seaside resorts.
eTN: And about Cuba promotional activities in Italy?
Councilor: Cuba will be at the Venice Carnival, right in the in Piazza San Marco and the satellite Mestre city. And in the Italian arts world. We will participate also in the main tourism, fashion and other fairs.