The number of tourists arriving in Cuba is shrinking by the day, new data from the Cuban government shows, suggesting the US sanctions on the communist island have already started to bite.
Foreign tourist arrivals decreased by 23% in July compared to the same period last year, according to the Statistics Office.
It seems President Donald Trump’s ban on cruise ships ferrying Americans to Havana hammered the final nail for Cuba’s already crippled economy. The ban has also hurt US travel companies that had built up Cuban business soon after former President Barack Obama lifted some of the sanctions.
In June this year, the State Department said it would no longer allow Americans to visit Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, as well as private and corporate aircraft.
From January through March, as many as 257,500 US citizens came to Cuba, with 55% of them arriving on cruise ships, according to the Cuban government.
Punishing Cuba helps Trump win friends among Cuban community members in Florida, a politically crucial state for the president seeking re-election.
Cuba’s Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told his country’s legislative house last month that he would expect the tourist number to decrease by 10% in 2019. According to Reuters, the communist country has revised downwards its estimation for full-year tourist arrivals to 4.3 million from 5 million.
Tourism accounts for more than 10% of Cuban gross domestic product (GDP) but has generated half a million jobs for local residents.