Interview with Isabel Docampo Torres, Tourism Counselor of the Cuban Embassy in Germany
First and foremost, Counselor, in your view what factors or circumstances favored Germany closing 2017 as Cuba’s fourth issuer?
Germany is not only the first European issuer for Cuba, it is also the one that broke a new record in arrivals in 2017, with 243,408 visitors. This country’s positive economic dynamics, which has an incidence in a favorable progress of the market in the European Community, together with the marketing actions, the institutional publicity campaigns, the increase in the diversity of the Cuban tourist product, the recognition of its stability in the evolution and development of tourism, which led it to being the guest country of the FITCuba 2017 fair, held in Holguín, were some of the factors that placed it in this position.
Which are the principal marketing and promotion actions previewed by the destination to maintain the increase in arrivals of German visitors?
Continuing with the joint promotion campaigns with the market’s principal tour operators, airlines and travel agencies, geared at encouraging the demand; participating in the principal fairs, working in the diversification of the product to establish the specialized tourism niches; maintaining a constant follow-up of the increase in quality of the tourist offer and revitalizing the existing infrastructure will be among the principal goals of this year, as well as drawing up ambitious tourist development programs.
The intensification of the use of the most advanced information and communication technologies in marketing, together with the new campaign of the Cuba, you live and love it, will back all these actions that will be carried out.
In terms of its preferences, travel motivations and most visited tourist destinations, how do you characterize the German market that opts for Cuba?
German tourism goes beyond the sun and beach modality; they are avid recipients of our culture, nature, heritage and history, which they combine during their tours of the island. Through these programs they can live the Authentic Cuba and exchange with its hospitable people; they also recognize the island’s safety and the high educational level of its inhabitants.
According to what you have explained in the previous question, is there a portfolio of products specifically directed at the German market in the Cuba Destination or some of the island’s tourist destinations?
Every day Cuba is presenting environmental investments as a way of emphasizing a sustainable tourism. We have renowned sites declared World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in different regions of the country, as well as numerous national monuments.
In the context of the Caribbean, we have several Traveller’s Choice awards of the TripAdvisor travel portal, like the recognition of the Museum of Fine Arts among the 10 best in the region, Paraíso beach in Cayo Largo del Sur and several hotels. The development of the non-state activity in accommodations, gastronomy and other services will continue being a complementary offer that enhances the programs for this market.
In order to guarantee domestic flights to improve the operations of the optional and combined circuits, we have a new aircraft that will fly between the different tourist destinations.
Moreover, the infrastructure in the interior of the country is being improved by employing foreign investment in hotels, with the aim of raising their quality, an aspect that responds to one of the demands of the German market, and thus increase the standards of the tours, the principal product that distinguishes us in the Caribbean area.
How is the air operation guaranteed to move the tourist flow from Germany to the island?
Through the Condor and the Eurowings airlines and the recent incorporation of Azur Air. We operate with all of them to increase the demand for the destination, since with the exit of the Air Berlin airline because of declaring itself insolvent last August we have had a reduction in the capacity of passengers for this year.
Which are the principal tour operators that contribute the most to the marketing of Cuba in Germany?
We are working with all the market’s tour operators, the wholesale ones, which have capacities reserved in the destination, as well as mid-size and small ones that move a more specialized tourism.
What part does the German market play in the cruise operations that include the island as the debarkation point?
This is the segment that grew the most last year in Germany, around 14%, and is part of the catalog offered by German tour operators. More than once we have had the Ms Berlin, of the FTI company, in the island’s cruise terminals, with excellent results. It is a modality we can expand and take advantage of its boom, given the uncertainty that exists today with the land trips because of the effect of terrorism in some destinations.
Could you refer to Germany’s participation in foreign investment in Cuba’s tourism?
We are working on incentivizing and expanding it. There is a non-hotel installation in the northern keys, specifically in Cayo Coco, called Torre de Cristal (Rocarena Climbing Park, designed by the German Crystal Tour Company), in addition to the recently inaugurated Cableski in Cayo Guillermo, both with the German Com-Impex Company. This company signed a letter of memorandum during the last edition of FITCuba for a real estate development associated to the marina, in Cienfuegos, among other projects that have already been negotiated with the largest of the Caribbean islands.
Other companies that also just started are BERmeeCU GmbH with the project La Habana Globo Park for Havana’s 500th anniversary, as well as the FRS Förde Reederei Seetouristik GmbH & Co. KG, for maritime transportation.
Is the Cuban delegation in ITB 2018 presenting some novelties of interest for the German market?
Cuba has an extensive delegation in ITB, where all the entities that interact with the tourism sector in Cuba are present: the principal Cuban hotel groups, the associated hotel chains; the country’s principal travel agencies like Havanatur, Cubatur, Viajes Cubanacán, San Cristóbal, Amistur and Ecotur, plus the Cuban Medical Services, the Paradiso Cultural Tourism Agency and Camping, among others, which are presenting a novel portfolio of services that will make it possible to expand and diversify the Cuban tourist product for the German market and attract new segments. To this is added the promotion of the 38th International Tourism Fair (FITCuba 2018), to be held May 2-5 in Cayo Santa María, to the north of Villa Clara, which this year is dedicated to the United Kingdom.
Would you like to mention any other aspect?
Cuba has constituted an extensive plan up to 2030, with priority in real estate development, golf courses, hotels, theme parks and marinas, which will make it possible to continue working in the updating of the tourist product, raising its quality and continuing the communication and marketing actions that encourage our partners and collaborators to bet on the Cuba Destination.