Cuba’s Best Friend: the Canadian Winter

Winter in Ottawa

By Arch Ritter

As I trudge through the snow to the University here in Ottawa with the temperature below minus 30 degrees Celsius (or about minus 25 Fahrenheit) in a Canadian “cold snap”, my thoughts turn towards the Tropics and Cuba and also to global warming. This is a characteristic shared by many Canadians in winter- though I also must confess that I am always thinking about Cuba. .

As everyone knows, Cuba has regained its position as a foremost tropical tourist destination. Canada has been the largest single national source of tourists consistently from 1990 to 2009. (See Chart 1) By 2009, Canadian citizens were by far the most numerous with about 915,000 tourist “arrivals”, or 37.6% of total (see Table1). Tourism is of course a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Cuba, larger than any single merchandise export but also smaller than other service exports (mainly medical and educational services.)

Most Canadian tourists head to the beach with a package tour – seldom making it to Havana or another city.  For this reason, they have been sometimes derided as “el cheapo” tourists who spend as little as they can in the Cuban economy.  There may be some truth in this, but most other tourists also are in similar package tours. Foreign exchange earnings from Canadian tourism were likely in the area of US$ 882 million for 2008, (calculated as 37.6% of total tourism earnings of U.S. $ 2,346.9 million.) If one takes both Canadian tourism plus Canadian merchandise imports (mainly nickel) from Cuba into consideration, Canada contributed about U.S. $1.6 billion in 2008, a substantial proportion of Cuba’s foreign exchange availability.

When US citizens are free to travel to Cuba, there undoubtedly will be a “tsunami” of curiosity tourism, sun, sea and sand tourism, “snowbird” tourism, convention tourism, cultural and sport tourism, medical tourism, “March-Break” tourism, and retirement tourism. Will Canadian tourists be squeezed out and priced out of the market as demand increases? Perhaps, for a while. But I expect that Cuba will continue to expand its tourist facilities of all sorts very rapidly. Until “global warming” has eliminated the winter up here in the True North, or until escalating jet fuel prices make air travel prohibitively expensive, my guess is that Canadians will continue to head south in winter and Cuba will continue as a top choice location.

Varadero Cuba

Guardalavaca, Cuba

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4 Responses to Cuba’s Best Friend: the Canadian Winter

  1. and why nobody cares about that? the canadian goverment does not care, the politcal disidents do not care, the us goverment does not care, but the holguin born jineteras cares, the merolicos care, the regimen care and we have to heard on canadian broadcasting all the times “cuba is autentica”. autentica???

  2. Ramon says:

    Cuba should have a tourism sector more than five times the current size. That is, at least 10 million visitors a year, which is what the mexican state of Quintana Roo gets.

    Quintana Roo has only 1.2 million inhabitants and only one fifth of Cuba´s coastline.

    • Bryan says:

      I wouldn’t want to go there if there were that many tourists. It’s that lack of saturation and mostly undisturbed local nature and culture that is Cuba’s greatest draw. Pack too many tourists in, and it loses its appeal.

  3. Oscar L. Nunez says:

    It’s all good. Good for both people. Developing relations with any country is very healthy.
    Western Union is there. The Israelis are there. So are the mexicans + our European allies/nations the likes of Germany, France, Spain, & Italy with hotels, etc.
    So, are the canadians. And, it’s all good. Read any of our magazines dating back to early 1982 & you’ll find articles on us (U.S.) looking to Cuba for a fountain of labor, cheap & educated.
    And, we all went there.
    Go Canada, U.S., & Cuba.
    We Cuban born U.S. Citizens are ready to end our “exile” period. It’s more than silly. The whole world is enjoying that natural paradise & the world government & Cuba have been members forever. I remember reading in Fortune ( feb 1987 ) that Castro was upset because the World Bank was dictating his production. Check to see who’s dictating our U.S. Tariffs, same people. It’s a new managed world & there’s no need to deny it. Embrace it & go forward & contribute whatever you can.
    Oscar Nunez, C.P.A., Real Estate Broker, Los Angeles, California

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