Cuba Pins Hopes on Russian Tourists to Revitalize Tourism in 2024
In a bid to rejuvenate its struggling tourism sector, Cuba is turning its gaze towards Russian visitors, counting on them to provide a much-needed boost in 2024. The Cuban ambassador in Moscow, Julio Antonio Garmendía, expressed optimism, anticipating an increase in Russian tourist numbers from 185,000 in 2023 to 250,000 in 2024, marking a significant 35% surge.
The Cuban diplomat credited the rise in visitors in 2023 to new direct flights from the Russian capital, with the 13-hour journey aiding the influx of tourists. The MIR credit card introduced by Russia for use on the island further facilitates transactions for Russian citizens visiting Cuban cities and resorts.
Cuba’s tourism industry, a vital economic lifeline, has faced challenges in recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened U.S. sanctions under former President Donald Trump, complicating travel for U.S. citizens. The expected increase in foreign currency from Russian tourists is seen as crucial for Cuba, grappling with economic crises and widespread shortages.
In 2023, Cuban officials reported 2.4 million tourists arriving on the island, falling short of the budgeted 3.5 million. With hopes for a more modest rise to 3.2 million visitors in 2024, Cuba aims to leverage its ties with Russia, a long-time political ally, to stimulate its tourism sector and support essential imports of food, fuel, and medicine.
The main sources of tourists to Cuba in 2023, according to the national statistics agency ONEI, included Canada, Cubans residing in other countries, Russia, the United States, Spain, and Germany.