Cuba aspires to enter the Smart Tourist Destination list to attract more travelers

Cuba aspires to enter the Smart Tourist Destination list to attract more travelers

Key Largo may become the first Smart Tourist Destination (DTI) of the Caribbean, although the path has only just begun. The Cuban Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, announced this Thursday the signing of a contract between the state hotel Gran Caribe and Segittur España to transform that area into DTI, a program that defines among its objectives the improvement of the competitiveness of destinations tourism and the quality of life of its residents, particularly through innovation, technology and sustainability.

García Granda has not given more details than a photo of the firm published on Twitter, but the characteristics of the program indicate that it will be necessary to work hard to meet the requirements. Segittur, a Spanish state-owned company founded in 1997 to promote tourism, has been developing this pioneering program in the world since 2019 to transform the model.

The plan has different phases –and includes the destination’s commitment to execute it– ranging from the identification of the situation, the development of the conversion process and the execution of actions. If the evaluation is positive (exceeding 80% of the requirements), the applicant obtains the qualifier. In Spain, Benidorm, San Sebastián, Gijón, Málaga, Tenerife and Santander have obtained the distinctive, although there are hundreds of cities that are already at level 3 approval.

For now, the only DTIs outside of Spain are Tequila in Mexico and Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia.

For now, the only destinations outside its borders are Tequila in Mexico and Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia. In the case of the latter, which got the designation in December, the work has lasted two years.

The Cuban government has been talking about entering the DTI segment for at least five years, but to do so it must demonstrate a high level in the five segments that are valued: governance, sustainability, accessibility, innovation and technology.

The news, although it is only a first step, is how little new the presence of Cuba in the Madrid International Tourism Fair (Fitur), which has already reached its halfway point. The event, one of the most important in the world in the sector, opened on Wednesday with the presence of the King and Queen of Spain and ends this Sunday.

The Cuban stand, which has achieved a privileged place in front of this year’s partner country, Guatemala, bears the motto of the campaign created for the Ministry of Tourism for the Spanish company Disset: Unique Cuba, based on the concept that the Cuban people are the hallmark of the Island as a tourist destination, although the promotional video is once again a succession of topics and colorism. Nothing unusual in the advertising strategies of the sector at an international level, but that have little or nothing to do with the reality of Cubans.

At the meeting, García Granda did not reveal anything that is not known in Cuba. The goal of international visitors for 2023 will be 3.5 million, a goal that he himself considered “very high”, precisely on the day that the closing figures for 2022 were released, which record the debacle of the sector.

A year ago, when the worst of the pandemic was over and it was possible to speak of an almost total return to normality, the Government set itself the goal of reaching 2.5 million tourists. Despite the fact that everything indicated that the figure was excessively optimistic and the first numbers of the year – aggravated by the collapse of the Russian market after the invasion of Ukraine – corroborated it, it was not until October that it was decided to admit that the forecast had to be lowered without remedy.

“We had set ourselves a difficult goal as we almost always do, because tourism plays a fundamental role for the Cuban economy”

At that time, they opted to reach 1.7 million and, thanks to a better December –although disastrous compared to those prior to the pandemic–, they have been able to stay within 80,000 of achieving it. The starting point, therefore, is not good, even though the Cuban consul in Barcelona, ​​Alejandro Castro Medina, told Mallorca this Tuesday that the island has recovered pre-pandemic levels of tourism.

“We had set ourselves a difficult goal, as we almost always do, because tourism plays a fundamental role for the Cuban economy,” García Granda said Thursday in Madrid. The minister, despite everything, defended that the figure achieved is “a good result.”

“Our country is prepared for the more than four million that it always had in recent times, like the rest of the countries that want to reach the 2019 figures, before the pandemic,” he added, immediately attributing to the “limitations that we have to the largest issuing market in the world, our natural market, which is the United States”. García Granda once again regretted that Americans cannot travel freely to the Island and also accused Washington of torpedoing the European market by imposing restrictions on those who visit the Island, who can no longer travel to the United States with the visa waiver program.

García Granda pointed out that among the objectives to increase the number of tourists in Cuba is to incorporate more airlines, despite the fact that 55 airlines already fly to the island, that is, some “600 flights.”

In addition, he added that the objective is to improve air capacity to Latin America “which is arriving, but which is not ideal, since the occupancy rates are below 50%.”

García Granda mentioned the private sector, “which is now growing in small and medium-sized companies and which can contribute to the quality of services,” he said. “For the first time, the country is opening up to foreign investment in the wholesale and retail market. We can dream of having clients from higher-class markets,” he concluded.


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