HAVANA – Foreign tourist arrivals are continuing to slow, declining 1.4 percent last month compared with June 2013, Cuban official media said on Wednesday.
Last month, 181,269 international visitors arrived on the island, 2,588 fewer than in June 2013, according to the National Statistics Office, which says that during the first quarter of the year, foreign tourist arrivals increased compared with the same period a year earlier.
“After an optimistic beginning of the year, the arrival of international travelers to the country continued to decelerate,” official daily Juventud Rebelde acknowledged.
During the first six months of 2014, foreign visitors to Cuba increased by 3.7 percent to 1.66 million, compared with 1.59 million during the same period last year.
However, even with this growth rate it is improbable that Cuba will achieve its objective of welcoming more than 3 million foreigners during the year, Juventud Rebelde said.
The Cuban government acknowledged recently that the damaged national economy this year is in a deceleration phase and that the tourist sector is one of those that has fallen short of achieving its goals.
In an article published this week in online media, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Cuba’s former economy minister, said that the government of Raul Castro had forecast an increase of 10.4 percent in the number of foreign visitors for 2014.
Given the figures for the first six months of the year, however, Rodriguez said that “it will require an extraordinary effort” in the second half of the year to get to the 3 million visitor threshold.
He also noted the “elevated level of competition based on price” the island is facing in the Caribbean region compared to the Dominican and Mexican markets.
In 2013, 2.85 million travelers visited the island, a modest increase of 0.5 percent over the prior year.
International tourism brought in some $1.8 billion for Cuba in 2013, according to official figures.