Tourism in Cuba and Climate Change

Team Leader: Emily Dolan

Primary Contributor: Erica Berry

Tourism in Cuba is a volatile industry heavily dependent on factors including climate, political, and economic issues. The growing threat of climate change impacts weather patterns in Cuba resulting in the recent increase of weather related disasters. An increase in the number of natural disasters means that the ability to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently is essential for the continued success of the tourism industry.

Hurricanes, one of the most common natural disasters in Cuba, impact the tourism industry. During hurricane season in 2008 approximately 3000 tourists were relocated. More recently, the impact of hurricane Irma has proved disastrous for the nation. Many historic buildings, which are prominent tourist attractions, were destroyed in the storm, casting doubt as to whether Cuba could handle another natural disaster. Irma proved that Cuba’s disaster response systems are effective, as the island was evacuated in a quick and timely matter. Although casualties were not high, Irma caused extreme financial damage. Many hotels were destroyed and financing reconstruction will be difficult as Cuba is unable to seek aid from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, due to the United States’ embargo.

Due to the embargo, lower exports, and a decline in aid from Venezuela, Cuba’s economy is suffering, and the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma adds to this financial burden. The hurricane damaged tourist resorts along the northern coast and destroyed a popular tourist airport, thus limiting travel. A tourist boom in Cuba over the last few years has been important in rebuilding the economy and earning hard currency however Irma is taking a toll on this revenue stream.

Although Cuba is impacted by natural disasters, it is recognized internationally as an example of good practices in terms or disaster management. Despite the high financial losses associated with natural disasters, the low casualty rate is a positive for the tourist industry.  

Ultimately, Cuba needs to be efficient in rebuilding their infrastructure system to ensure the nation is equipped to handle tourists despite the increased risk of natural disasters due to climate change.