Cuba’s Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero, at an industry event hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board

“We are not going to turn our backs on Canadians”: Marrero

TORONTO — Despite some consumer media reports to the contrary, Cuba’s resorts are fully operational and ready to welcome Canadian vacationers this winter, says Cuba’s Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero.

Marrero spoke at an industry event yesterday in Toronto hosted by the Cuba Tourist Board.

Consumer media coverage ramped up in September as stronger U.S. sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela led to fuel shortages, and brought images of long lineups of Cubans at the gas pumps, and waiting for public transportation, amid service cuts to save fuel.

Marrero said the CBC and specifically Radio-Canada were “telling Quebecers to go to the D.R. [and other Caribbean destinations] this winter because there’s no fuel in Cuba.

“I’m here to set the record straight,” said Marrero, via an interpreter. “The media is lying. They are spreading a negative opinion about Cuba that has nothing to do with reality.

“Tourism in Cuba is functioning as normal. We took decisions to coincide with the low season. We did take measures with transportation. But to say that our hotels are closing, I can responsibly tell you that is not true.”

There are fewer than two dozen hotel closures, said Marrero, and that’s because it’s low season. “We close hotels in low season for two reasons: low occupancy; and maintenance and repairs.”

He added: “We have more than enough hotels for high season. We’re going to invite Radio-Canada to Cuba so they can see the situation with their own eyes.”

Airlines flying to Cuba from Canada include Air Canada, Sunwing, Transat and WestJet. All in all some 58 airlines fly into Cuba from around the world and Marrero points out that none of them have pulled out of the destination because of the fuel shortage.

He said companies are increasing their investments in Cuba. “People know that they have all of our support. Why? Because they know we will never abandon those people who gave us a hand when we were going through tough times.”

By the end of 2019 Cuba will have some 4,000 new resort rooms, with more on the way for 2020. New and renovated hotels and resorts include the SO/ Paseo del Prado La Habana; the Melia Internacional (formerly the historic Internacional), Gran Hotel Bristol by Kempinski, Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski, Paradisus Los Cayos and Grand Muthu.

Despite the allure of its beaches, Marrero says the Cuba Tourist Board is asking Canadians “to see us with more than eyes for just sun and sand. Cuba is also culture. We have art, we have music, we have dance. We also want to promote MICE.”

Cuba is also looking forward to Havana’s 500th anniversary on Nov. 16.

Marrero had strong words for the U.S. government, which under President Trump ramped up sanctions against the country earlier this year. “It is absolutely absurd that they try to isolate us,” he said.

“We’re not going to change our culture, our roots, our traditions for anyone. We will continue to be authentic. For 60 years we have been resisting people who wanted to change us.

“We thank Canada, we’ve had so many years in Canada. We’re not going to lie to Canada, we’re not going to abandon Canada. We have a lot to be grateful for with Canada. We are not going to turn our backs on Canadians.”