HAVANA, July 30 The Cuban tourism industry
stagnated in 2013 and is struggling this year for more visitors,
a government report said on Wednesday, the latest indication of
a general slowdown in the country's economy.
Tourist arrivals last year numbered 2.8 million and income
totaled $2.3 billion, similar to 2012, according to the National
Statistics Office statistical abstract for 2013 (www.one.cu/aec2013.htm).
Tourism is one of the Caribbean island's most important hard
currency earners, after the export of professional services and
remittances, and a major employer.
The industry faces a U.S. ban on travel to the Communist-run
country, with the exception of Cuban Americans and licensed U.S.
An estimated 350,000 to 400,000 Cuban Americans visit each
year, but the government does not count them as tourists.
The statistics office report said 92,000 U.S. citizens not
of Cuban origin visited Cuba last year, down from 98,000 in
The official Juventud Rebelde newspaper said another report
by the statistics office showed tourism was up 3.9 percent
through June, due to increased arrivals earlier in the year, but
declined 1.5 percent last month compared with June of last year.
"After an optimistic start this year, the arrival of
travelers gradually has slowed," Juventud Rebelde said.
The newspaper cited a speech by Economy Minister Adel
Yzquirdo earlier this month in which he criticized the sector
for poor organization and promotion abroad.
The Cuban economy grew just 0.06 percent during the first
semester of the year, compared with a 2.7 percent increase in
the gross domestic product in 2013.
Cuba set a goal of three million visitors in 2013 and again
for this year.
"At this rate it will be difficult to arrive at the
anxiously awaited three million visitors, a psychological
barrier that we have not been able to reach and at times appears
unreachable," Juventud Rebelde said.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dan Grebler)