Dr. Jens Thraenhart | Travel Daily News | 12th February 2024.
Balanced tourism growth champions a sustainable approach, harmonizing economic benefits with the preservation of environmental, cultural, and community assets, ensuring a resilient and inclusive future for destinations worldwide.
The tourism industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years, with more and more people exploring different destinations around the world. While this growth has brought numerous economic benefits, it has also raised concerns about the negative impacts it can have on the environment, local communities, and cultural heritage. This is where the concept of balanced tourism growth comes into play.
Definition of balanced tourism growth
The importance of balanced tourism growth cannot be overstated in today’s world. Balanced tourism growth refers to the deliberate and sustainable development of tourism that takes into account the needs of the environment, local communities, and the economy. It aims to strike a harmonious balance between the economic benefits of tourism and the preservation of natural and cultural resources. By ensuring that tourism growth is managed responsibly, we can create a win-win situation where both visitors and host communities benefit.
Significance of balanced tourism growth in the tourism industry
Balanced tourism growth is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry. It helps to minimize the negative impacts of tourism while maximizing its positive contributions. By promoting responsible and sustainable practices, we can ensure that tourism continues to thrive without compromising the very resources that attract visitors in the first place.
Negative impacts of unbalanced tourism growth
Unbalanced tourism growth can have severe consequences for destinations. It can lead to overdevelopment, environmental degradation, loss of cultural authenticity, and social dislocation. When tourism development is not properly managed, it can result in overcrowding, pollution, strain on infrastructure, and an unequal distribution of benefits. These negative impacts not only harm the environment and local communities but also have long-term effects on the tourism industry itself.
Understanding Carrying Capacity
Explanation of carrying capacity and its relevance to tourism destinations
Carrying capacity refers to the maximum number of tourists that a destination can sustainably accommodate without causing significant negative impacts on the environment, society, and culture. It takes into account factors such as the availability of resources, infrastructure capacity, and the resilience of the ecosystem. Understanding carrying capacity is essential for effective destination management and ensuring that tourism growth remains balanced.
Importance of assessing carrying capacity for sustainable tourism development
Assessing carrying capacity allows destinations to plan and manage tourism growth in a sustainable manner. By understanding the limitations and thresholds of a destination, authorities can implement strategies to prevent overcrowding, degradation of natural resources, and negative impacts on local communities. Carrying capacity assessments also help in identifying areas that require infrastructure development and resource management.
Methods for managing carrying capacity to achieve balanced tourism growth.
To achieve balanced tourism growth, destinations can employ various methods for managing carrying capacity. These include setting visitor limits, implementing visitor management strategies, promoting seasonality, and diversifying tourism products and experiences. Effective management of carrying capacity requires collaboration among stakeholders, including government agencies, local communities, and the tourism industry.
Sustainable Tourism Practices for Balanced Growth
Importance of sustainable tourism practices in achieving balanced tourism growth
Sustainable tourism practices are essential for achieving balanced tourism growth. By adopting sustainable practices, destinations can minimize their environmental footprint, preserve cultural heritage, and ensure the well-being of local communities. Sustainable tourism also enhances visitor experiences, as travelers increasingly seek authentic, responsible, and meaningful experiences.
Environmental considerations for sustainable tourism
In order to achieve balanced tourism growth, destinations must prioritize environmental conservation. This includes implementing waste management systems, promoting energy efficiency, protecting natural habitats, and encouraging sustainable transportation options. Sustainable tourism practices can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve biodiversity, and mitigate the negative impacts of tourism on fragile ecosystems.
Social considerations for sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism development should prioritize the social well-being of local communities. This involves respecting and preserving cultural heritage, promoting fair trade practices, and ensuring the equitable distribution of tourism benefits. Engaging local communities in tourism planning and decision-making processes empowers them and fosters a sense of ownership and pride in their cultural identity.
Economic considerations for sustainable tourism
Balanced tourism growth should also contribute to the economic development of local communities. This can be achieved by promoting local entrepreneurship, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and creating employment opportunities. Tourism revenue can be reinvested in community development projects, infrastructure improvements, and the preservation of cultural heritage sites.
Diversifying Tourism Products and Experiences
Importance of diversifying tourism products for balanced growth
Diversifying tourism products and experiences is key to achieving balanced tourism growth. By offering a variety of attractions and activities, destinations can appeal to a wider range of travelers and reduce the strain on popular sites and attractions. Diversification also allows destinations to better distribute visitor flows, encourage longer stays, and foster sustainable tourism practices.
Benefits of offering a variety of attractions and activities
Offering a diverse range of tourism products and experiences benefits both visitors and locals. It enhances visitor satisfaction by catering to different interests, preferences, and travel motivations. Diversification also stimulates the local economy by creating opportunities for new businesses and supporting existing ones. Additionally, it helps to promote cultural exchange and understanding between travelers and host communities.
Examples of successful destination diversification strategies
Numerous destinations have successfully diversified their tourism products to achieve balanced growth. For example, Iceland, known primarily for its natural landscapes, has expanded its offerings to include cultural experiences, culinary tourism, and adventure sports. Similarly, Barcelona has developed a thriving urban tourism scene alongside its traditional beach tourism, attracting a wider range of visitors throughout the year.
Community Engagement and Empowerment
Importance of involving local communities in tourism planning and decision-making
Involving local communities in tourism planning and decision-making processes is essential for achieving balanced tourism growth. Local communities possess valuable knowledge, insights, and a deep understanding of their culture and environment. By including their perspectives, concerns, and aspirations, destinations can develop tourism strategies that are more sustainable, respectful, and beneficial to all stakeholders.
Benefits of community empowerment in tourism development
Empowering local communities in tourism development leads to more inclusive and equitable outcomes. It allows them to actively participate in the decision-making process, have a say in how tourism resources are managed, and share in the economic benefits generated by tourism. Community empowerment fosters a sense of pride and ownership, resulting in greater support for sustainable tourism practices and a more positive visitor-host interaction.
Examples of successful community-based tourism initiatives
Community-based tourism initiatives have proven to be successful in achieving balanced tourism growth. In Thailand, the village of Ban Mae Kampong has embraced community-based tourism, allowing visitors to experience rural life, participate in local activities, and stay with host families. This initiative has revitalized the local economy, preserved traditional practices, and empowered the community to actively engage in tourism development.
The Power of Balanced Tourism Growth: Fueling Sustainable Development
Case Study: The Impact of Community Empowerment in Sustainable Tourism
During a trip to Thailand, Lisa had the opportunity to visit a local village that had embraced community-based tourism. She learned how the community had actively participated in the planning and decision-making processes for tourism development. The locals were involved in offering authentic cultural experiences, guiding nature walks, and providing traditional handicraft workshops for visitors.
Lisa witnessed firsthand the positive impact of community empowerment in sustainable tourism. The local people were able to preserve their cultural heritage, generate income, and improve their living standards while maintaining a sense of ownership and pride in their traditions.
This case study illustrates the importance of involving local communities in tourism initiatives and how their empowerment can contribute to the overall balanced growth of the tourism industry.
Infrastructure Development for Balanced Tourism Growth
Role of infrastructure development in achieving balanced tourism growth
Infrastructure development plays a crucial role in achieving balanced tourism growth. Adequate and well-planned infrastructure ensures the smooth flow of visitors, reduces environmental impact, and enhances the overall visitor experience. It also supports the local economy by creating employment opportunities and attracting private investment.
Importance of transportation and accessibility
Efficient transportation systems and accessibility are vital for achieving balanced tourism growth. Well-connected airports, highways, and public transportation networks make it easier for visitors to reach their destinations while reducing congestion and carbon emissions. Destinations should also prioritize sustainable transportation options, such as cycling paths, walking trails, and public transit, to minimize the reliance on private vehicles.
Ensuring sustainable accommodation and visitor management facilities
Balanced tourism growth requires sustainable accommodation and visitor management facilities. This includes promoting eco-friendly practices in hotels, resorts, and other lodging establishments, such as energy conservation, waste reduction, and water management. Additionally, visitor management facilities, such as visitor centers and information booths, play a crucial role in providing tourists with essential information, promoting responsible behavior, and ensuring a positive visitor experience.
Ways in which infrastructure development can distribute tourist flows.
Infrastructure development can help distribute tourist flows and alleviate the pressure on popular sites and attractions. This can be achieved by developing alternative tourist routes, creating new attractions in lesser-known areas, and promoting off-peak travel. By diversifying visitor distribution, destinations can reduce overcrowding, minimize the environmental impact on sensitive areas, and ensure a more balanced distribution of economic benefits.
Government Regulations and Policies for Balanced Tourism Growth
Role of government regulations and policies in promoting balanced tourism growth.
Government regulations and policies play a critical role in promoting balanced tourism growth. They provide the legal framework for sustainable tourism practices, protect natural and cultural heritage, and ensure the fair distribution of tourism benefits. Governments have the responsibility to set guidelines, enforce regulations, and collaborate with stakeholders to create an enabling environment for sustainable tourism development.
Importance of responsible tourism practices and protection of natural and cultural heritage
Responsible tourism practices and the protection of natural and cultural heritage are fundamental to achieving balanced tourism growth. Governments should implement regulations that promote environmental sustainability, cultural preservation, and the ethical treatment of both visitors and local communities. This includes enforcing regulations on waste management, limiting visitor numbers in sensitive areas, and safeguarding cultural sites from overexploitation.
Ensuring fair distribution of tourism benefits
Balanced tourism growth requires the fair distribution of tourism benefits among all stakeholders. Governments should implement policies that promote equitable economic opportunities for local communities, ensure fair wages and working conditions in the tourism industry, and encourage the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises. By ensuring that tourism benefits reach all segments of society, governments can foster social cohesion and reduce inequalities.
Collaboration and Partnerships for Balanced Tourism Growth
Significance of collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders
Collaboration and partnerships among stakeholders are crucial for achieving balanced tourism growth. No single entity can address the complex challenges of sustainable tourism development alone. It requires the active involvement and cooperation of the tourism industry players, local communities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other relevant stakeholders.
Importance of cooperation between tourism industry players, local communities, government agencies, and NGOs
Cooperation between tourism industry players, local communities, government agencies, and NGOs is essential for implementing sustainable tourism practices. This collaboration ensures that tourism development is transparent, inclusive, and respectful of all stakeholders’ interests. It allows for the exchange of knowledge, resources, and best practices, leading to more effective destination management and the achievement of balanced tourism growth.
Examples of successful collaborations for balanced tourism growth
Numerous successful collaborations have resulted in balanced tourism growth. For instance, the partnership between the tourism industry, local communities, and NGOs in the Maldives has led to the establishment of marine protected areas, sustainable fishing practices, and community-based tourism initiatives. This collaboration has helped to preserve the natural beauty of the islands, protect marine biodiversity, and provide economic opportunities for local communities.
Monitoring and Evaluation for Sustainable Tourism Development
Need for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of tourism development.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of tourism development are essential for ensuring its sustainability and achieving balanced growth. It allows destinations to track the impacts of tourism, identify emerging issues, and make informed decisions based on data and evidence. Monitoring and evaluation provide valuable insights into visitor numbers, satisfaction levels, environmental indicators, and the effectiveness of management strategies.
Importance of data collection on visitor numbers, impacts, and satisfaction levels
Data collection on visitor numbers, impacts, and satisfaction levels provides crucial information for destination management. It helps in understanding visitor trends, identifying carrying capacity thresholds, and assessing the effectiveness of tourism policies and practices. By collecting data on visitor satisfaction, destinations can continuously improve their offerings, enhance visitor experiences, and address any issues or concerns that may arise.
Using data for informed decision-making and strategy adjustments
Data collected through monitoring and evaluation processes should be used for informed decision-making and strategy adjustments. By analyzing the data, destinations can identify areas that require intervention, modify management strategies, and implement targeted measures to achieve balanced tourism growth. Data-driven decision-making ensures that resources are allocated effectively, and strategies are continuously refined based on the evolving needs and challenges of tourism development.
In conclusion, the importance of balanced tourism growth is paramount for the sustainable development of the tourism industry. By prioritizing environmental conservation, social responsibility, and economic empowerment, destinations can achieve a harmonious balance between the economic benefits of tourism and the preservation of natural and cultural resources. Collaboration among stakeholders, responsible government regulations, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation are key to achieving and maintaining balanced tourism growth. It is crucial for all stakeholders to work together to implement sustainable tourism practices that benefit both visitors and host communities, ensuring a brighter and more sustainable future for the tourism industry.
Who benefits from balanced tourism growth?
Local communities, businesses, and the environment benefit from sustainable tourism growth.
What is the impact of imbalanced tourism growth?
Imbalanced tourism growth can lead to overcrowding, environmental degradation, and cultural erosion.
How can balanced tourism growth be achieved?
Balanced tourism growth can be achieved through careful planning, community involvement, and sustainable development.
What if a destination doesn’t want tourism growth?
It is important to respect the wishes of local communities and find ways to support sustainable tourism in other areas.
Why should tourists support balanced growth?
Supporting balanced tourism growth helps to preserve natural and cultural resources for future generations.
How can tourists contribute to balanced tourism growth?
Tourists can contribute by respecting local customs, supporting local businesses, and minimizing their environmental impact.
Dr. Jens Thraenhart: Founding Partner - Chameleon Strategies | Website | + Articles
With over 30 years of global travel and tourism expertise, Dr. Jens Thraenhart is the Founding Partner of 25-year-old bespoke strategy consulting firm Chameleon Strategies, the 2nd Vice Chair of the World Tourism Organization’s UNWTO Affiliate Members, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (Visit Barbados), the former Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the founder of private-sector-led tourism marketing organization Destination Mekong, and former Board Member of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Previously active in China, in 2009, he co-founded acclaimed marketing agency Dragon Trail and published the China Travel Trends books and website. Jens has also held leadership positions with Destination Canada and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (now Accor).
As founder of the Destination Film Forum, he is also a big proponent of the power of storytelling, having been recognized as one of the top 10 Most Influential Leaders in Travel in 2022 by Travel Vertical, ranking first in the category of Creativity and Brand Storytelling, and served on the Jury of the Cannes Lion International Film Awards.
Other recognitions for his work include being one of the travel industry’s top 100 rising stars by Travel Agent Magazine in 2003, one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality and Travel in 2004 and 2005, one of the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in European Travel and Hospitality in 2014, and honored as one of the Global Travel Heroes in 2021.
He completed his Doctor in Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and graduated from Cornell University with a Masters in Hospitality Management.
He publishes his three tourism industry blogs: (1) Tourism-Campaigns.com; (2) BalancedTourism.com; (3) PurposePicks.com.
BNN | 8th February 2024.
The Cayman Islands tourism sector is rebounding, with 2023 visitor numbers reaching 85% of the 2019 record. The focus for 2024 is to achieve 95% of the 2019 figures while balancing stayover and cruise tourism. The government is working on strategies for sustainable tourism, managing visitor flows, and improving infrastructure to support economic growth and preserve the Islands' natural beauty and quality of life for residents.
A Resurgent Tide: The Cayman Islands Tourism Sector Rebounds
In the heart of the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are witnessing a resurgence in their tourism sector, with visitor numbers by air and sea in 2023 reaching 85% of the record-breaking figures from 2019. Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, addressing the Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum, announced an optimistic 11% increase in stayover visitors for 2024, setting a target of 478,000 visitors - just shy of 2019's high watermark.
Balancing Act: Stayover vs Cruise Tourism
Despite the overall surge, Bryan struck a more cautious note regarding revenue from accommodation tax for the upcoming years, following the highest ever recorded revenue of $46.5 million in 2023. The cruise tourism segment, however, remains a concern. With cruise lines increasingly opting out of tender services, the Islands are bracing for a 30% drop from 2019's peak cruise visitor number of 1,935,538 cruise visitors.
Bryan emphasized the need for balance between stayover and cruise tourism, stating, "Both are essential to our economy, and we must maintain this delicate equilibrium." He acknowledged the challenges posed by managing the social and environmental impacts of tourism, stressing the importance of careful visitor management to maintain the Islands' pristine beauty and quality of life for residents.
Navigating the Future: Strategies for Sustainable Tourism
The issue, Bryan asserted, is not the number of tourists but the management of tourist flows. The government is actively working on various solutions to improve infrastructure and enhance the visitor experience. These include measures to better manage pedestrian, vehicle, and cruise passenger flows, ensuring a more harmonious coexistence between tourists and residents.
As the Cayman Islands continue to navigate the complexities of their tourism landscape, the focus remains on striking a balance that supports economic growth while preserving the natural beauty and social fabric of these idyllic Caribbean isles.
The Road Ahead: Building on the Momentum
With the tourism sector regaining its footing, the Cayman Islands stand at a crucial crossroads. The goal for 2024 is clear: to reach 95% of 2019's visitor numbers, maintaining a balanced approach that supports both stayover and cruise tourism. As Bryan concluded, "The challenge lies not in the numbers, but in how we manage them. We are committed to finding solutions that improve our infrastructure, mitigate impacts on residents, and enhance the visitor experience."
Minister hedges over tourism recovery for 2024.
Cayman News | 8th February 2024.
The total number of visitors to the Cayman Islands by air and sea in 2023 easily exceeded the tourism ministry’s original target of 80% of the figures for 2019, the last full year before the borders were closed as a result of the pandemic. Last year, 429,284 stayover visitors arrived, which is 85% of 2019’s record-breaking numbers. Despite the rebound, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan is aiming to reach 95% of 2019 numbers in 2024 rather than match that year’s arrivals.
“For 2024, I have set a conservative target of 478,000 visitors, which is an 11% increase over 2023 and 95% of 2019’s stayover arrivals,” Bryan said at the recent Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum. “It is important to note that returning to 2019 numbers is a benchmark. It’s not the ceiling. Continued growth in visitor arrivals beyond 2019 numbers will continue to occur incrementally, driven by increases in room stock and airlift.”
Most destinations in the region are almost back to 2019 figures, and even though the Cayman Islands was one of the last Caribbean destinations to fully reopen, it is enjoying a healthy rebound. In addition, the revenue that the Cayman Islands Government has collected from accommodation tax has soared, reaching $46.5 million in 2023, the highest ever recorded and more than double what the government had expected to collect.
“This tells us that even though the numbers have not yet fully recovered, we are earning more from our stayover visitors than ever before,” said Bryan. “That’s an example of quality over quantity.”
Nevertheless, Bryan appears to be hedging expectations and not predicting a return to 2019 arrival numbers. The target revenue from accommodation tax this year is just $40 million, increasing to $44 million in 2025, even though room stock is expected to grow this year with the opening of Hotel Indigo sometime in April and an increasing number of rooms available through platforms like Airbnb.
Meanwhile, cruise arrival figures are very unlikely to return to the 2019 peak, given the decision by several cruise lines not to bring some of their mega ships here because they don’t want to use a tender service to bring passengers ashore.
“While I have full confidence that we will get back to 2019 numbers for stayover, the outlook for cruise is not as positive,” said Bryan, who has also been floating ideas about building cruise berthing facilities despite the lack of public support for such a policy.
In 2023, a total of 1.2 million cruise passengers visited Cayman, a 30% drop from 2019. Bryan said that to stay relevant as a cruise destination and protect the existing numbers, which contribute around $200 million to the economy, “we must adapt and be willing to rethink the possibilities”. But he said there was a need to address “the friction that sometimes exists between… stayover and cruise”.
Bryan admitted that stayover tourism brings greater economic benefits. However, he said Cayman needed to recognise the opportunities that cruise tourism provides for many Caymanian businesses and entrepreneurs. “This is one of the reasons why it is important to maintain a balanced approach that supports both stayover and cruise tourism, ensuring the ongoing inclusion and success of Caymanian enterprises on both sides of the industry,” he added.
While some are of the opinion that more than half a million stayover visitors and almost two million cruise passengers per year is unsustainable, Bryan spent some time making the case that the impact of continued tourism growth would be mitigated if visitors were spread across more attractions and locations.
He did, however, accept that before the pandemic, the number of cruise visitors was having a detrimental impact on residents and visitors. “If we cast our minds back to those pre-pandemic years of growth, the industry was booming from an economic perspective. But there were also social impacts affecting our quality of life, as well as environmental concerns,” he said.
“Traffic, congestion and delays became pressing issues, and the strains on infrastructure and the environment began to surface. There were complaints about major attractions being oversubscribed and there being no place on beaches for our locals to enjoy.”
Returning to 2019 numbers, he said, would be economically beneficial but requires permanent solutions to fix the traffic and congestion issues and better pedestrian management to improve the visitor experience and minimise the impact on residents trying to go about their daily lives.
“The problem wasn’t that we had too many tourists in 2019; the problem was that we didn’t manage them correctly,” Bryan said. “What we needed was more effective solutions to manage pedestrian, vehicle and cruise passenger flows.”
He told the audience of business members that the government was now working on solutions in various ways, as he outlined some of the UPM’s policy proposals as well as the ongoing roadworks.
Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in December 2023 and total 2023 traffic edged even closer to matching pre-pandemic demand.
Total traffic in 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 36.9% compared to 2022. Globally, full year 2023 traffic was at 94.1% of pre-pandemic (2019) levels. December 2023 total traffic rose 25.3% compared to December 2022 and reached 97.5% of the December 2019 level. Fourth quarter traffic was at 98.2% of 2019, reflecting the strong recovery towards the end of the year.
International traffic in 2023 climbed 41.6% versus 2022 and reached 88.6% of 2019 levels. December 2023 international traffic climbed 24.2% over December 2022, reaching 94.7% of the level in December 2019. Fourth quarter traffic was at 94.5% of 2019.
Domestic traffic for 2023 rose 30.4% compared to the prior year. 2023 domestic traffic was 3.9% above the full year 2019 level. December 2023 domestic traffic was up 27.0% over the year earlier period and was at 2.3% above December 2019 traffic. Fourth quarter traffic was 4.4% higher than the same quarter in 2019.
“The strong post-pandemic rebound continued in 2023. December traffic stood just 2.5% below 2019 levels, with a strong performance in quarter 4, teeing-up airlines for a return to normal growth patterns in 2024. The recovery in travel is good news. The restoration of connectivity is powering the global economy as people travel to do business, further their educations, take hard-earned vacations and much more. But to maximize the benefits of air travel in the post-pandemic world, governments need to take a strategic approach. That means providing cost-efficient infrastructure to meet demand, incentivizing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production to meet our net zero carbon emission goal by 2050, and adopting regulations that deliver a clear cost-benefit. Completing the recovery must not be an excuse for governments to forget the critical role of aviation to increasing the prosperity and well-being of people and businesses the world over,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Air Passenger Market in Detail.
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airlines posted a 126.1% rise in full year international 2023 traffic compared to 2022, maintaining the strongest year-over-year rate among the regions. Capacity rose 101.8% and the load factor climbed 9.0 percentage points to 83.1%. December 2023 traffic rose 56.9% compared to December 2022.
European carriers’ full year traffic climbed 22.0% versus 2022. Capacity increased 17.5%, and load factor rose 3.1 percentage points to 83.8%. For December, demand climbed 13.6% compared to the same month in 2022. December traffic was higher than the corresponding month in 2019 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Middle Eastern airlines saw a 33.3% traffic rise in 2023 compared to 2022. Capacity increased 26.0% and load factor climbed 4.4 percentage points to 80.1%. December demand climbed 16.6% compared to the same month in 2022.
North American carriers reported a 28.3% annual traffic rise in 2023 compared to 2022. Capacity increased 22.4%, and load factor climbed 3.9 percentage points to 84.6%. December 2023 traffic rose 13.5% compared to the year-ago period.
Latin American airlines posted a 28.6% traffic rise in 2023 over full year 2022. Annual capacity climbed 25.4% and load factor increased 2.1 percentage points to 84.7%, the highest among the regions. December demand climbed 26.5% compared to December 2022.
African airlines’ annual traffic rose 38.7% in 2023 versus the prior year. Full year 2023 capacity was up 38.3% and load factor climbed 0.2 percentage points to 71.9%, the lowest among regions. December 2023 traffic for African airlines rose 9.5% over December 2022.
Domestic Passenger Markets.
China’s full year domestic traffic rose 138.8% versus 2022, and is now 7.1% above the 2019 level.
Australia (-4.2% compared to 2019) and Japan (-3.2% compared to 2019) are the only major domestic markets yet to recover pre-pandemic traffic demand.
Air Passenger Market Overview - December 2023
The Bottom Line
“Our push to connect our world even more strongly than before the pandemic must not come at the expense of our environment. The industry’s goal to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 remains steadfast. To accelerate the transition, we need governments and fuel suppliers to step up and do more. We saw a strong increase in the use of SAF in 2023, but SAF is still only 3% of all global renewable fuels production. That is unacceptable. Aircraft have no option but to rely on liquid fuels, whereas other transport modes have alternatives. A massive collective effort is needed to increase SAF output as a proportion of overall renewable fuel production as quickly as possible,” said Walsh.
> View the December Air Passenger Market Analysis (pdf)
U.S. Travel Association | January 11, 2024
Due to slow recovery and declining U.S. global travel market share, U.S. Travel Association commissioned Euromonitor International to assess the competitiveness of the U.S. relative to other top countries for global travel.
The U.S. ranked 17th out of 18 countries analyzed, stemming from decades of underinvestment and a lack of focus and coordination from the federal government.
Inefficiencies in the U.S. travel system threaten the economy. One example: The U.S. risks losing 39 million visitors and $150 billion in spending over the next 10 years due to excessive visitor visa wait times (Tourism Economics).
U.S. Travel launched a Commission on Seamless and Secure Travel, comprised of former government officials and private-sector executives, to develop a vision and policy roadmap to modernize the travel experience and increase U.S. competitiveness.
WASHINGTON (January 11, 2024)—U.S. Travel Association today released a study that found the United States ranks 17th out of 18 top travel markets in terms of global competitiveness, according to Euromonitor International. Decades of underinvestment and a lack of focus and coordination from federal policymakers caused the U.S. to fall behind, while other countries actively apply robust strategies to increase travel and grow economic output.
“U.S. officials cannot ignore the bold, decisive steps other nations are taking to advance and modernize their travel economies,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. “The United States should aspire to lead the way into a new era of seamless and secure travel and capitalize on the many opportunities to grow this critical sector.”
U.S. Travel commissioned the study to better understand the slow recovery of international inbound travel to the U.S. and how the country can more effectively compete for global travelers in the coming decade.
While the U.S. is still the most desired destination for global travelers, it slid to third in total visitation (behind Spain and France). In 2023, it is estimated that the United States welcomed nearly 67 million international visitors—down from 79 million visitors in 2019 and only 84% recovered from pre-pandemic levels, which is far behind other competitors’ recovery rates.
U.S. global market share for long-haul travel declined from 5.4% in 2019 to 5.3% in 2023.
The study assessed 18 top countries for global travel (including the United States) across four weighted categories: 1) National Leadership, 2) Brand & Product, 3) Identity, Security & Facilitation and 4) Travel & Connectivity. The U.S. notably underperformed in the categories of National Leadership and Identity, Security & Facilitation.
The U.S. ranked last in terms of government leadership on travel-related issues and the strength of its national travel strategy. Most top markets have a minister of tourism; the U.S. has an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism position, but the role has not yet been filled or fully funded by Congress. The U.S. has few specific federal policies and little funding to increase inbound visitation.
Other countries like Canada have robust national strategies to boost travel spending, improve visitor experiences and highlight lesser-known destinations through key partnerships.
The U.S. scored highly in the travel promotion category thanks in part to the effectiveness of Brand USA and robust emergency funding provided by Congress in 2022.
Brand & Product.
The U.S. is a highly desired destination, with diverse products and a strong brand identity among international travelers. The World Economic Forum Safety and Security Pillar—which considers various factors such as the prevalence of violence and crime—was used to rank the safety category, placing the U.S. toward the bottom.
Identity, Security & Facilitation.
Excessive visitor visa interview wait times, which approach an average of 400 days in top source markets, placed the U.S. last in this critical category. The U.S. also ranks unfavorably in terms of the number of countries it permits for visa-free travel, granting the privilege to only 42 nations—far behind the U.K., which allows 102 countries visa-free travel.
The U.S. ranked in the middle of the pack on biometric security screening capabilities, with only 36% of U.S. international airports employing both biometric entry and exit systems. The technology is severely underutilized compared to other nations, despite the fact that a majority of Americans are comfortable with biometric screening if it results in a more efficient air travel experience.
Lengthy Customs wait times upon arrival into the United States, combined with an outdated domestic airport security screening process for many travelers, further resulted in poor rankings for security and facilitation. Meanwhile, there are clear examples of other countries evolving their security screening processes—like leveraging technology to remove liquid bans on flights—to be more efficient and globally competitive.
Travel & Connectivity.
The U.S. ranks at the top of the global air connectivity network, serving as a major world hub for direct and connecting flights.
There is serious economic risk in failing to address inadequacies across the U.S. travel system. According to an analysis by Tourism Economics:
When a new daily international flight (Boeing 787-10) cannot be accommodated due to Customs and Border Protection staffing shortages, the U.S. economy loses up to $227 million per year.
The inefficient aviation security screening process could deter American travelers from as many as three million domestic trips this year, resulting in spending losses of $7.4 billion.
The U.S. risks losing 39 million visitors and $150 billion in spending over the next 10 years due to excessive visitor visa wait times.
However, there are opportunities to facilitate growth.
In conjunction with the new Euromonitor analysis, U.S. Travel today launched a solutions-oriented Seamless and Secure Travel Commission, chaired by former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan.
The commission—comprised of former government officials and private sector experts—is tasked with creating a vision and making policy recommendations to modernize the travel experience, increase U.S. competitiveness and facilitate growth. The commission plans to release its policy recommendations in autumn 2024.
“The U.S. can no longer sit out of the race to modernize travel,” said Freeman. “Today’s situation is decades in the making. It is time the U.S. government collectively gets serious about establishing a metrics-based plan to claim our spot as the top destination in the world, which will pay dividends for decades to come.”
The Summary and Full Reports are attached below.
IATA | 10th January 2024.
Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data for November 2023 air travel performance indicating that air travel demand topped 99% of 2019 levels.
Total traffic in November 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 29.7% compared to November 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 99.1% of November 2019 levels.
International traffic rose 26.4% versus November 2022. The Asia-Pacific region continued to report the strongest year-over-year results (+63.8%) with all regions showing improvement compared to the prior year. November 2023 international RPKs reached 94.5% of November 2019 levels.
Domestic traffic for November 2023 was up 34.8% compared to November 2022. Total November 2023 domestic traffic was 6.7% above the November 2019 level. Growth was particularly strong in China (+272%) as it recovered from the COVID travel restrictions that were still in place a year ago. US domestic travel, benefitting from strong Thanksgiving holidays demand, reached a new high, expanding +9.1% over November 2019.
“We are moving ever closer to surpassing the 2019 peak year for air travel. Economic headwinds are not deterring people from taking to the skies. International travel remains 5.5% below pre-pandemic levels but that gap is rapidly closing. And domestic markets have been above their pre-pandemic levels continuously since April,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Air Passenger Market in Detail
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airlines had a 63.8% rise in November traffic compared to November 2022, which was the strongest year-over-year rate among the regions. Capacity rose 58.0% and the load factor was up 2.9 percentage points to 82.6%.
European carriers’ November traffic climbed 14.8% versus November 2022. Capacity increased 15.2%, and load factor declined 0.3 percentage points to 83.3%.
Middle Eastern airlines saw an 18.6% traffic rise in November compared to November 2022. November capacity increased 19.0% versus the year-ago period, and load factor fell 0.2 percentage points to 77.4%.
North American carriers experienced a 14.3% traffic rise in November versus the 2022 period. Capacity increased 16.3%, and load factor fell 1.4 percentage points to 80.0%.
Latin American airlines’ November traffic rose 20.0% compared to the same month in 2022. November capacity climbed 17.7% and load factor increased 1.7 percentage points to 84.9%, the highest of any region.
African airlines had a 22.1% rise in November RPKs versus a year ago. November 2023 capacity was up 29.6% and load factor fell 4.3 percentage points to 69.7%, the lowest among regions.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Air Passenger Market Overview - November 2023
The Bottom Line
“Aviation’s rapid recovery from COVID demonstrates just how important flying is to people and to businesses. In parallel to aviation’s recovery, governments recognized the urgency of transitioning from jet fuel to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for aviation’s decarbonization. The Third Conference on Aviation Alternative Fuels (CAAF/3) in November saw governments agree that we should see 5% carbon savings by 2030 from SAF. This was followed up at COP28 in December where governments agreed that we need a broad transition from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Airlines don’t need convincing. They agreed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and every drop of SAF ever made in that effort has been bought and used. There simply is not enough SAF being produced. So, we look to 2024 to be the year when governments follow-up on their own declarations and finally deliver comprehensive policy measures to incentivize the rapid scaling-up of SAF production,” said Walsh.
> View the November Air Passenger Market Analysis (pdf)
Saudi Arabia achieved a staggering 150% recovery rate in its tourism sector compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Saudi Gazette report | December 31 2023.
JEDDAH — In 2023, Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in transforming itself into a premier global tourism destination, with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Barometer reporting it as the world’s second fastest-growing tourist destination.
This impressive achievement reflects the Kingdom's ambitious efforts to diversify its economy and enhance its appeal to international visitors.
Record-Breaking Growth in Tourism
According to the UNWTO report, Saudi Arabia achieved a staggering 150% recovery rate in its tourism sector compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, outpacing the global recovery rate of 87% and leading the Middle East with a 120% recovery.
This rapid growth is attributed to the Kingdom's proactive strategies to increase tourist numbers, especially following the launch of several new tourist destinations.
Introduction of 'KSA Visa' Platform
A key development in 2023 was the launch of the 'KSA Visa,' a unified visa platform designed to streamline the visa application process. This innovative system aims to attract a greater number of tourists in the coming years, making it easier for visitors from around the world to explore the Kingdom.
The efficiency of the digital visa system, which reduces the processing time to just 60 seconds, reflects the Kingdom's commitment to leveraging technology to enhance the visitor experience.
Expanding Visa Accessibility
Saudi Arabia's expansion of e-visa accessibility to 63 countries marks a significant move in making the Kingdom more accessible to international tourists.
Since the introduction of the visit visa in September 2019 for tourism, Umrah outside the Hajj season, and attendance at events and exhibitions, the Kingdom has seen a surge in tourist numbers, driving unprecedented growth in the sector.
The e-visa is also available to GCC residents, US, UK, and EU citizens, as well as holders of US, UK, and Schengen visas, further broadening its reach.
Robust Growth in Tourism Numbers
The Kingdom's tourism strategy has yielded impressive results, with more than 18.6 million visas issued in 2023.
In line with the targets of the 2024 general budget, Saudi Arabia aims to increase tourism spending to SR289 billion, achieve 88 million visitors, and create more job opportunities in the tourism sector.
These targets underscore the Kingdom's ambition to become a leading player in the global tourism industry.
Record-Breaking Inbound Tourism
The first half of 2023 witnessed a historic surge in inbound tourism, with a 142% increase in the number of visitors compared to the previous year.
This growth was accompanied by a substantial 132% rise in inbound tourism spending, contributing SR86.9 billion to the economy and setting a new record in the sector.
Investment in Hospitality Infrastructure
The Kingdom's hospitality sector is set to expand significantly, with the current 400,000 hotel rooms expected to grow to 854,000 by 2030.
This expansion is crucial in accommodating the increasing number of tourists and providing them with diverse lodging options.
Enhancing Saudi Arabia's Global Tourism Appeal
The Kingdom's remarkable growth in the tourism sector is not just a testament to its rich cultural and historical heritage but also to its ambitious development projects.
The launch of new tourist destinations is a strategic move to showcase Saudi Arabia's diverse attractions, ranging from its sprawling deserts and ancient archaeological sites to modern urban wonders.
Investing in World-Class Infrastructure
The strategic development of infrastructure is key to Saudi Arabia's tourism growth. The expansion of hotel capacity and the development of new tourist destinations are geared towards accommodating the anticipated influx of tourists.
The Kingdom's investment in infrastructure, including the expansion of airports and the development of new resorts and cultural attractions, is aimed at providing visitors with world-class facilities and experiences.
Cultivating a Diverse Tourism Experience
Saudi Arabia is keen on offering a diverse range of tourism experiences, catering to various interests and preferences.
From adventure and eco-tourism in its vast deserts and mountain ranges to religious tourism in Makkah and Madinah, and leisure tourism in its Red Sea coast, the Kingdom is positioning itself as a destination with something for everyone.
Fostering Cultural Exchange and Dialogue
By hosting tourists from around the world, Saudi Arabia aims to foster cultural exchange and dialogue.
The Kingdom's rich cultural heritage and traditions are showcased through various festivals, events, and exhibitions, inviting visitors to experience and understand the Saudi way of life and its values.
Towards a Sustainable Tourism Model
In line with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is committed to developing a sustainable tourism model that balances economic growth with environmental conservation and cultural preservation.
This approach is essential in ensuring that the Kingdom's natural and cultural treasures are protected and enjoyed by future generations.
As Saudi Arabia continues to break new ground in its tourism sector, it is clear that the Kingdom is not just opening its doors wider to the world but is also crafting a unique and diverse narrative in the global tourism landscape.
The success in hosting Expo 2030 and the continued development of its tourism infrastructure are steps towards realizing its vision of becoming a leading global destination, contributing to a brighter and more prosperous future for the Kingdom and its visitors.
Canarian Weekly | December 23 2023.
The Canary Islands continue to set official records in 2023, with unprecedented economic performance in the tourism sector. The latest reports indicate that the archipelago is on track to close the year with some of the best figures in its history, particularly in terms of key variables.
These include operator revenues, notably from hoteliers, the number of visitors, expected to reach around 16 million people (including both domestic and international travellers), mirroring the record-setting year of 2017 (15.9 million), and foreign tourists' spending, anticipated to be €20 billion this year, driven by approximately 14 million foreign visitors, predominantly from the UK and Germany, accounting for nearly 60% of the total received in 2023.
In November, during the peak tourist season in the Canary Islands, this positive trend continued, as reported by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) based on data from its Hotel Tourism Situation survey.
The clear conclusion drawn from these findings is that the hotel business (and tourism in general) in the Canary Islands, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is thriving.
Evidence of this prosperity is the archipelago's remarkable average increase of 65% in hotel prices over the past five years, measured on a 2008 base index of 100, according to the Hotel Price Index (IPH). The IPH provides insights into the temporal evolution of prices received by hotel entrepreneurs from all sources, including households, businesses, tour operators, and travel agencies.
The INE asserts that the IPH is continuously compiled each month with a comprehensive sample covering three-star or higher hotels across all provinces in Spain.
This spectacular rise in the nominal value of services provided by island hoteliers is the highest among Spain's regions, doubling the national average increase of 32% for the same period of analysis. Additionally, over the last 12 months, the annual price increase in the Canary Islands stands at 7.2%, slightly below the national rate of 8.6%.
These positive economic indicators can be attributed, among other factors, to the high levels of hotel occupancy in the Islands during the peak months of 2023 and, as a general trend, throughout the year. Consequently, there has been an increase in revenue per occupied room and the average revenue per available room.
Once again, the Canary Islands boast the highest average nightly hotel room price in Spain, with an Average Daily Rate (ADR) of €132.90, marking an 8.9% increase from the same month in 2022. Due mainly to high occupancy, the parameter for the average price per available room in hotel spaces is €117.90 per night (RevPar) in the islands, a 14.3% increase compared to the same period the previous year. Madrid ranks second in both categories, with €120.30 and €92.81, respectively.
The Main Tourist Areas Of Costa Adeje And San Bartolomé De Tirajana:
Nationally, the largest increase in hotel prices compared to November 2022 is observed in the Valencian Community (11.4%), while the smallest increase is in Extremadura, with a rate of 1%. In terms of hotel categories, the highest increase occurs in three-star gold establishments (11.8%).
Regarding the profitability of the hotel sector, it is noteworthy that the average daily revenue per occupied room (ADR) was €104.90 in November, representing a 9.9% increase from the same month in 2022.
Conversely, the average daily revenue per available room (RevPar), influenced by the occupancy recorded in hotel establishments, reaches €67.10, indicating a 15.1% increase.
By categories, the average revenue is €228.60 for five-star hotels, €109.60 for four-star hotels, and €82.60 for three-star hotels. The revenue per available room for these same categories is €151.50, €80.20, and €54.20, respectively.
Marbella boasts the highest ADR, with an average daily revenue per occupied room of €173.90. Adeje presents the highest RevPar, with revenue per available room reaching €152.80.
In terms of tourist areas, the South of Tenerife achieves the highest occupancy rate (78.7%), and Tenerife records the highest weekend occupancy rate (80.3%), along with the highest number of overnight stays in November.
The tourist points with the most overnight stays are Madrid, Barcelona, and San Bartolomé de Tirajana (Gran Canaria). Adeje boasts the highest occupancy rate (81.1%), while Puerto de la Cruz achieves the highest weekend occupancy rate (83.5%).
By Jessica Dominguez Delgado (El Toque) | Havana Times | September 15, 2023
HAVANA TIMES – The latest Tourism Selected Indicators January – June 2023 report published by Cuba’s Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), confirms what has been a trend in recent years, even before the pandemic: the number of foreign visitors is well below the island’s hotel availability. In other words, there are many more hotel rooms than there are tourists to fill them. However, this hasn’t stopped the Cuban Government betting on hotels and building new ones.
In the past six months, hotel occupancy was at 27.9%, which means that for every ten rooms, seven weren’t occupied by foreign tourists. While this figure has increased compared to the same period in 2022, it’s far from being a good indicator. The country hasn’t managed to beat an average of 60% occupancy in the best of years. Yet, the number of hotel rooms is growing.
During the recent International Tourism Fair in Havana, in May 2023, Prime Minister and former Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero Cruz, said that the country currently has over 81,000 hotel rooms. A figure that is growing with recently opened hotels. Eight hotels have been opened since 2022, and it’s expected that another five will complete the list of new openings by the end of 2023.
The most worrying thing here, though, is that the money being used to develop the hotel sector is essentially Cuban, at the expense of other sectors. Even though we don’t know just how much each of these new projects exactly cost, or how they are financed, it’s clear that they are a top priority when it comes to national investment.
Is it viable, from an economic standpoint, to carry on investing public money in the hotel sector when the supply that exists is significantly higher than demand? Who is still building new hotels and why?
The Defacto team doesn’t have all the answers, but statistics have been analyzed to try and understand the sense in standing by these decisions.
Tourism hasn’t recovered as expected.
The Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos Garcia Granda, admitted that “recovery has been difficult.” The country didn’t meet its target of 1.7 million visitors in 2022, a figure that had been cut from the initial aspiration of 2.5 million. According to different experts, the Government’s target of 3.5 million tourists in 2023 probably won’t be met. During the first semester, 1,298,539 foreign visitors had visited Cuba, but this recovery only accounts for 50% of the total number of visitors over the same period in 2019.
The expansion of tourism and Cuba’s position within the international market don’t only depend on the island’s hotel capacity. Other factors come into play, including the availability of flight connections, the quality and price of service, as well as competition with other markets in the same field.
During the Ministry of Tourism’s (MINTUR) annual balance, Marrero admitted that problems within the sector in 2022 included “a series of problems in quality, mainly as a result of shortages of food, drinks and supplies, poor service, insufficient recreational activities and entertainment at tourist resorts, the lack of maintenance of facilities and an unstable Internet service.”
Cubans living abroad: the second most “tourists” who visit.
There was a “boom” in non-Cuban U.S. tourism in 2017 and 2018. With the exception of these two years, ONEI statistics reveal that the community of Cubans living abroad are the second “source market” of tourism to Cuba.
They are considered tourists because they are “people who visit a country other than the one they have their residence in, for less than a year, for leisure, recreational, business and other personal motives, and they aren’t engaging in paid activities in the country they visit.”
While this is technically true, talking about an increase in international tourism is questionable if this community represents 13.5% of the total number of visitors to Cuba so far in 2023, and it’s not just this year.
Canada is the main source of tourists for Cuba, a fact that has been promoted and capitalized on fully by the Canadian company Blue Diamond, one of the foreign managements that runs the most hotels in the country.
It’s interesting that the Canadian Government recently issued a warning to travelers, explaining the situation in the country and, especially, to exercise caution due to shortages of basic essentials, including food, medicines and fuel. This might not have any repercussions on tourism, but it’s the first time that this has ever happened and it’s a precedent that could discourage Canadians from choosing Cuba as their holiday destination.
Canada is followed by the United States despite US Government restrictions. However, it’ll be very hard to aspire to the numbers of 2017 and 2018 as long as the current policy between both countries remains intact. Something that could mean a real change in Cuban tourism and a sector that many people on the Caribbean Island were eagerly looking towards.
Airline JetBlue recently announced that it would cancel its flights to Cuba after September 17th and another two US airlines have made the same decision: United Airlines and Delta Airlines, at least temporarily. They saw a drop in demand, which forced them to reduce the number of their flights. The Spanish airline Iberia will also reduce the number of flights between Madrid and Havana after September.
Then, it’s Russia, which was top of the list in 2021, during the pandemic; but its presence on the island has dropped during its war with Ukraine. Furthermore, a recent report from the Association of Russian Tour Operators labeled Cuba one of the most expensive markets for Russian tourists. The organization had predicted that in fall/winter (the peak tourism season in Cuba), Russian tourists who want to relax by the sea will, for the most part, choose Thailand, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Other markets, such as Europe, are quite demanding and a great deal of effort is needed to attract them to Cuba, that go beyond hotel capacity.
Private rentals and rooms out-of-service
In addition to hotels on the island, there are other options available for tourist accommodation, in the private sector. According to statistics from 2017, there were approximately 21,000 rental homes across every province in the country, that were generally cheaper than hotel rooms.
While the number may have fallen post-pandemic and the national economic crisis, private rentals are competition for hotels. Many tourists prefer them not only because they can be much cheaper, but because they offer more friendly service and the opportunity to have an experience more in keeping with everyday life on the island.
On the other hand, the number of out-of-order rooms in hotels is alarming. These are rooms that aren’t being used at tourism facilities because they have a flaw or problem with the services on offer. This could be the air conditioning not working properly, taps that don’t work properly or anything else that doesn’t ensure guests’ comfort.
In May 2019, there were 7,000 “out-of-order” rooms, Jose Daniel Alonso, the general director of Development, Business and Investments at MINTUR, told the press at the time. Four years later, the problem remains.
“Despite an investment plan being executed in hotel facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.2% of physical rooms are out of order,” the minister explained to lawmakers in July 2022.
This means that while new facilities continue to be built, a significant part of the available capacity isn’t being used every year.
Hotels working today.
There are at least 400 hotels in Cuba. It’s very hard to give an exact number because facilities change their name, join together or separate depending on who is promoting them, if it is an exclusive area, whether they close for maintenance works or if there’s a change in management, etc.
Within this vast array, there are emblematic and new hotels, with different star ratings, sizes and targeting different market segments. Having a variety to cover different tastes is great: city, beach, nature.
However, the Cuban hotel chains Gran Caribe, Cubanacan, Islazul and Gaviota don’t have the same opportunities. Gaviota is the only one of these building new hotels, and it belongs to the military emporium GAESA. Plus, it owns 76% of 5* hotels on the island.
According to the Cuban prime minister, inviting foreign hotel companies to come and run our hotels is one strategy to develop the sector. They are the ones who give them a name and international prestige. They also promote Cuba as a destination, drawing them into their own market, offer better experiences to their customers because they know them. Foreign companies are not only important because they safeguard quality service, which is something Cuba is unable to do on its own; but also, because they take on a commitment to meet occupancy rates and it’s up to them to attract guests, especially foreign ones.
During the 2023 edition of the International Tourism Fair in Havana, Marrero updated on the number of foreign chain working today. He said: “there are already 18 foreign managements with 113 hotel management and sales contracts, running 65% of our hotels. Furthermore, there are 24 mixed companies that oversee approximately 5,000 rooms. The co-dependent relationship between both parties is quite high and implies shared profits for a strategic sector that represents 7.6% of the Gross Domestic Product.
The oldest hotel chains in the country are Melia and Iberostar from Spain, with over 30 years’ experience working in Cuba and with 35 and 18 facilities respectively, in different areas across the country and in partnership with other Cuban chains.
The Canadian hotel chain Blue Diamond Resorts is the second most important in the country, and it was granted exclusive management in the tourist destination Cayo Largo del Sur, as well as an exclusive import license to bring in its own resources. Up until May 2023, Blue Diamond Resorts had 28 hotels in Cuba, of all kinds.
Other chains such as Barcelo, Blau, Be Live (Globalia) or ROC remain in Cuba, as well as others with less experience such as Singaporean company Banyan Tree Hotel Resorts, the MGM Muthu Hotels group from India or the Singaporean chain Archipelago International that is rapidly expanding, with a hand from the GAVIOTA group.
However, other chains have passed through the country and abandoned their operations for different reasons, including slim profit margins or differences with the Cuban party such as Riu Hotels & Resorts, Accor, the Posada group, Labranda, and Marriott.
Despite blips in tourists arriving or the country’s domestic problems, Cuba is selling itself as a tempting offer for foreign chains who are looking to expand their market, especially with new facilities and in practically untouched places. This is why new chains appear and are willing to enter the country, such as the Portuguese hotel Vila Gale, which is expected to open its first facility in October 2023.
If something goes wrong, or doesn’t work properly, then they’ll try another one.
Not every hotel is the same, we have to talk about GAVIOTA.
Tourist resorts are split up and there are areas where one of the four Cuban chains operates, exclusively. This comes from an ancient way of dividing up the cake. With the exception of Havana and Varadero, the rest of the country has an owner.
Total numbers aren’t always enough to get a real idea of tourism’s contribution to the economy. Visitors arriving always means money is being spent in the country, but not every visitor leaves the same amount of revenue.
Frank Oltuski, the vice-president of GAVIOTA’s Marketing, said during the Tourism Fair in 2023, that this company is the most important tour operator on the island, and it has monopolized over 50% of tourist activity. He also said: “from the 400 rooms we had in 1995, we now have over 30,000. Back then, developments were focused in Havana, Varadero and Holguin. New destinations have opened up – such as the Cays in Villa Clara, operations in Jardines del Rey and the latest openings in the cays Cruz y Paredon Cays, in the north of Camaguey and Ciego del Avila.”
Talking about Cuba’s hotel industry means we need to talk about GAVIOTA), because it seems that the company has a budget and independence to decide on their building projects and to attract top-quality foreign managements. In an old El Toque investigation, the company didn’t accept foreign investment for its projects.
In the case of other Cuban chains, they need to turn to foreign investment to modernize their hotels and are being marketed as a part of Cuba’s investment portfolio. With foreign management teams taking the lead in most cases.
High-quality tourism is GAVIOTA’s main bet, but the country lacks sufficient infrastructure, and there are only five 5* plus hotels in the entire country. If millionaires want to come and spend their money, they demand exclusive, modern and luxurious services.
This is why their projects don’t only include hotels, but also yacht marinas, golf courses and other non-hotel infrastructures. Plus, they aren’t conceived for the Cuban people, as recent scandals about the chain prove.
Do we need more hotels?
In July 2022, the minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos Garcia, justified the surge in tourist facilities when compared to tourism growth over the same period. He then explained that the number of tourists has always grown more than the number of rooms, since the 1990s. From 1990 – 2019, the number of visitors grew by 9.1%, while the number of hotel rooms at 4.9% However, this doesn’t mean that growth is justified, especially if it’s in keeping with real demand for rooms in the country.
According to economist Pedro Monreal, who closely follows the subject, “a new hotel investment when there is food insecurity is never justified. The reasonable thing to do would be to change the current investment pattern to reassign funds to the agricultural sector (and other activities too), which is being used to build hotels today that are going to run with a low occupancy rate,” he noted.
Explanations about why this decision remains in force at the expense of other needs and other sectors of the population might be linked to a long-term view of tourism. Expanding the real estate sector might also have added value to the region or could be a strategy for us to build facilities with public money, which would just pass into private hands if there were a change in Government.
Monreal also presents another interesting hypothesis. He explains that “multinational companies under-declare profits in countries with high tax rates (for example in Europe) and transfer these to countries with low or zero taxes (for example, the Caribbean), using an internal transfer scheme. They need hotels to do this.”
In any case, this decision isn’t made thinking about how it can directly benefit the Cuban people, and the State hasn’t clearly explained the reasons needed to justify sustainable growth of hotel facilities. In the meantime, GAVIOTA is moving on with its own projects.
The document below is Volume One of the National Cruise Tourism Policy for Belize which has been updated in 2023.
Volume two which contains five annexes including a list of the stakeholders who were consulted, a Policy Framework, a Policy Context, a SWOT analysis of the cruise industry, and a Monitoring, Evaluation and Review Template is not yet available.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.