Cu­ba Tar­gets Emer­ging Tra­vel Mar­kets

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - Entrevista / Interview -

IN AN EX­CLU­SI­VE INTERVIEW WITH THE EX­CE­LEN­CIAS MA­GA­ZI­NE, CU­BA'S TOU­RISM MI­NIS­TER MA­NUEL MA­RRE­RO SPELLS OUT THE KEYS TO

THE IN­CREA­SING IN­FLOW OF RUS­SIAN TOU­RISTS TO CU­BA

The mee­ting with the Cu­ban Tou­rism Mi­nis­ter in Rus­sia, du­ring the In­ter­na­tio­nal Ex­hi­bi­tion of Tra­vel and Tou­rism of Mos­cow (MITT 2019), allo­wed us to know the keys to the for­mi­da­ble an­nual growth in the num­ber of Rus­sian tra­ve­lers vi­si­ting the is­land na­tion.

Co­ping with the hurd­les po­sed by the cu­rrent U.S. ad­mi­nis­tra­tion, a na­tu­ral mar­ket for Cu­ba, tou­rism aut­ho­ri­ties op­ted to gi­ve top prio­rity to the emer­ging mar­kets, as well as fo­cus on new ni­ches and seg­ments, such as Health and MICE, in which the country has op­ti­mal con­di­tions to of­fer.

We are li­ving a good mo­ment in terms of re­cei­ving tou­rists from Rus­sia, with “a fi­gu­re that prac­ti­cally dou­bled last year,” Mr. Ma­rre­ro said. The arri­val of 137,800 tra­ve­lers from that country in 2018 meant to be a 30 per­cent in­crea­se com­pa­red to 2017.

And this year, is it going as smooth as the past?

When we analy­ze the pe­riod un­til March 12, we ha­ve wel­co­med 38,500 Rus­sians, that is, up 30 per­cent and that puts us in a fa­vo­ra­ble con­di­tion. Ho­we­ver, we are ta­king ac­tion to build cus­to­mer lo­yalty. Our stra­tegy is to gi­ve ma­xi­mum im­por­tan­ce to this mar­ket, which thanks to its over-com­plian­ce, has co­ve­red to a lar­ge ex­tent the out­bound short­fall from ot­her coun­tries.

What coun­tries are the most di­rect com­pe­ti­tors Cu­ba faces for the Rus­sian mar­ket?

Fun­da­men­tally, the Do­mi­ni­can Re­pu­blic, alt­hough we con­si­der that Cu­ba is well po­si­tio­ned in this mar­ket. The tour ope­ra­tors are happy. Ho­we­ver, we should not rest on our lau­rels. The eco­no­mic si­tua­tion in Rus­sia has chan­ged their boo­king sty­le and we should think about how to ma­ke the trip to our country ea­sier, and beef up the communicat­ion cam­paign.

We will seek and ta­ke a clo­ser look at new mar­ket ni­ches. The fact that the­re is a lot of re­peat tra­ve­lers en­cou­ra­ges us to of­fer ot­her op­tions, such as at­trac­ting stu­dents and re­ti­rees, to whom we even gua­ran­tee health in­su­ran­ce.

Health tou­rism, for exam­ple, is al­so ai­med at tho­se who suf­fer from chro­nic di­sea­ses and need treatment du­ring their

va­ca­tions, such as kid­ney pa­tients who need dialy­sis. In Va­ra­de­ro, the­re is a cli­nic with all the con­di­tions, fit­ted out with new tech­no­lo­gies and a spe­cia­li­zed service with ex­cep­tio­nal hu­man treatment. This can ma­ke a dif­fe­ren­ce when stac­ked up against ot­her des­ti­na­tions.

How is lu­xury tou­rism evol­ving as far as Cu­ba is con­cer­ned?

He­re the­re are se­ve­ral agen­cies that send qua­lity cus­to­mers, which ha­ve been as­su­red to feel very happy, they and their cus­to­mers, for the ope­ning of high-qua­lity fa­ci­li­ties or that are in high de­mand among Rus­sians, such as the Grand Ho­tel Man­za­na Kem­pins­ki and the Ibe­ros­tar Grand Pac­kard, whi­le we con­ti­nue buil­ding ot­her lod­gings. This new ge­ne­ra­tion of ho­tels will un­doub­tedly find a safe mar­ket in Rus­sia.

Then Ae­ro­flot will in­crea­se fre­quen­cies, won't it?

Well, Ae­ro­flot has four fre­quen­cies and has al­ready go­ne for a fifth. What I can tell you is that the flights are com­ple­tely boo­ked. I ha­ve no furt­her in­for­ma­tion at the mo­ment, but it would be great if they re­su­med the se­ven flights that exis­ted in the past.

From Mos­cow, Ae­ro­flot will tra­vel di­rectly to Pa­na­ma. How will this si­tua­tion af­fect Cu­ba?

It is a new win­dow of oppor­tu­nity that opens up. It will help us in our po­licy of pro­mo­ting multidesti­nation tra­vel, alt­hough we think that this Pa­na­ma flight is very bu­si­ness-orien­ted.

In the ca­se of multidesti­nation, what coun­tries would be con­si­de­red?

Pa­na­ma and Me­xi­co that ha­ve many daily con­nec­tions. Gua­te­ma­la, Ni­ca­ra­gua, Co­lom­bia. The­se is­sues of in­crea­sing air­lift and ope­ning new ope­ra­tions in com­pe­ti­tor coun­tries must al­so be cons­trued as an oppor­tu­nity, and we could al­so ta­ke part in it and cash in on it.

How is Cu­ba fo­cu­sing on trai­ning to up­gra­de its gastronomi­c po­si­tio­ning?

We ha­ve ta­ken ac­tions ba­sed on the exis­ten­ce of a go­vern­men­tal as­su­ran­ce com­mis­sion and nons­top en­cou­ra­ge­ment to the developmen­t of tou­rism, which I pre­si­de over and in which ten mi­nis­ters are en­ga­ged. Every month, we as­sess tho­se is­sues re­la­ted to the sec­tor, what it needs to be do­ne and how tou­rism de­mands are ac­tually fa­ring.

Im­por­tant ac­tions are being ca­rried out by se­ve­ral mi­nis­tries, in­vest­ments to ma­ke na­tio­nal pro­duc­tions de­man­ded by tou­rism ramp up, both in the food in­dustry and in agri­cul­tu­re. In can men­tion, for exam­ple, co­ve­red crops, mini-in­dus­tries associated with fa­vo­ring the pro­duc­tion of fruits, ve­ge­ta­bles, among ot­hers.

No­net­he­less, the im­por­ta­tion of a vo­lu­me of fruits and ve­ge­ta­bles that meet the needs of sea­so­nal products was ap­pro­ved. A joint ven­tu­re was al­so aut­ho­ri­zed for the Ma­riel Spe­cial Developmen­t Zo­ne, with the Ibe­ros­tar group and ai­med at im­por­ting fresh products to supply all its ho­tels at a first sta­ge, and la­ter on pro­vi­de the service to all the ho­tel chains.

Is MICE tou­rism con­si­de­red as tho­se new mar­ket ni­ches you're loo­king for?

MICE tou­rism is a top prio­rity for us. For a se­cond year in a row, we ha­ve held the MITT Ame­ri­cas fair and ex­hi­bit, which was so suc­cess­ful last year. That's just one mo­re step to ap­proach this seg­ment. The in­cen­ti­ves are going to ta­ke for­ce, for that rea­son new fa­ci­li­ties are being built in ot­her tra­vel des­ti­na­tions across the is­land na­tion, lar­ge enough to ac­com­mo­da­te tra­vel and tou­rism-orien­ted events.

Con­gres­ses and con­fe­ren­ces ha­ve been a strong point in Ha­va­na for a long ti­me. Now, the ope­ning of the­se new spa­ces in the country will help us grow even mo­re. We ha­ve been tou­ting Va­ra­de­ro in that sen­se and ho­tels are being re­fur­bis­hed with sa­lons and halls ready to ca­ter to this sec­tor.

Es­ta­mos vi­vien­do un buen mo­men­to en cuan­to a la re­cep­ción de tu­ris­tas des­de Ru­sia. Cu­ba is li­ving a good­mo­ment as far as in­co­ming Rus­sian tou­rists are con­cer­ned.

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