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The sharing economy

The sharing economy

Gibson says Canada remains the number-one source market, with the USA and the Cuban diaspora representing the second- and third-largest groups of visitors.

He adds: “Although we offer a lot of cheap holidays for the mass market, representing 80% of tourism in Cuba, we want to push our cultural offerings.”

Enabling more Cubans to make an income from homestays is an “ongoing” goal, says Gibson.

“We [Cuba Direct] are working on a system similar to Airbnb that will use SMS on a mobile phone to enable people without an internet connection to register their properties as casas particulares [private accommodation]. The government will also issue more homes with licences this December, and I expect there will be more than 3,000 on the market for 2019.”

Infrastructure developments are in the pipeline too, he adds. This includes a $1.3 billion Chinese-backed super marina project in the Pinar del Rio province and an upgraded cruise port in Havana.

The sharing economy continued

Regarding airlines, Gibson says Virgin Atlantic was still operating its service from Gatwick to Varadero following news that Tui Airways is stopping its twice-weekly flight in October and will not be on sale next summer. Additional airlines still operate out of Europe, including KLM, Air France, Iberia, Air Europa (CA330), Air Canada (NA400) and Thomas Cook.

With the wave of development taking place across the country, many tourists fear the character of Cuba will be changed for ever. For Gibson, these claims are unfounded.

“I believe Cuba will be enhanced and its character complemented with improvements in service. Those visiting Havana will still be able to experience the centuries-old forts, all of which are protected and will continue to be protected by law,” he says.

“Right now, Cuba is diversifying. We’re not thinking about the end goal, but the steps towards achieving a stronger tourism offering. We’re not there yet, but we think it’s achievable.

“Cuba is a destination that should be welcoming 20 million visitors a year – we have great hotel stock with a lot of luxury on offer. But we must be competitive too.”

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