The 7th Exceltur Tourism Leadership Forum, held in Madrid and attended by all of the leading international travel and tourism companies and institutions, wisely decided to include a panel on one of the most contemporary, yet least known issues in global tourism: Cuba, its history of success in tourism and new opportunities.
Meliá Hotels International has the good fortune of knowing this story very well. Thanks to an alliance forged over 25 years ago between our Chairman, Gabriel Escarrer, and the Cuban government, our company has played an active role in the extraordinary development of tourism in Cuba. That’s why I was very happy to be joined on the panel by Cuba’s Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero, and by the Chairman of Balearia, Adolfo Utor.
Cuba’s tourism industry now represents more than 10.5% of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is growing at a rate of over 4% per year, estimated to reach 12% of GDP in 2015. With a total capacity of 65,000 rooms, the nation’s Strategic Plan expects this to grow to 85,000 by 2020 and 110,000 in 2030. In 2015, Cuba received more than 3.5 million tourists, led by markets such as Canada, Germany and France, but with a 70% increase in the number of visitors from the United States despite the continuing existence of the economic embargo.
As I have always argued, tourism has the capacity to bring people together and overcome barriers, and that is why I am so proud to have contributed, together with all of our Cuban friends and partners, to the brilliant reality of tourism in Cuba today.
In spite of the difficulties caused by having to create a very unique business model, today nobody doubts that Cuba has built a successful tourism strategy based on careful planning and respect for the social and natural environment, together with alliances with loyal, strategic partners and extraordinary human potential. A present that, as was evident in the Exceltur Forum, will give way to an even stronger future as a key destination in the Caribbean region.
By 2018, Meliá Hotels International will operate 30 hotels on the island with more than 15,000 rooms, and an important part of the soul of our company is to be found on the island – with more than 10,000 employees working in hotels we operate, and our commitment to Cuba remains absolutely firm.
We still believe in this genuine “Pearl of the Caribbean”, and we are proud to be part of the past, present, and future of tourism in this country, and to have the opportunity to accompany the Cuban people and authorities in the exciting process of growth and transformation that Cuba is undoubtedly now facing.