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The Impact of U.S. Trade Embargo on Cuba Tourism Research Paper



Trade embargo is usually the primary sanctions imposed to a country. A trade embargo can be partial or full. A full trade embargo normally entails total suspension of import from or export to the embargoed state of all goods and services. This is normally with the exception of goods needed for humanitarian purposes.

The goods include food and medical supplies; there are also other humanitarian supplies. In some cases, the embargo does not only mean the restriction of movement of goods but also people (Aust, 2010). In as much as the Trade embargo normally affects the embargoed country economically and socially, it provides opportunities for self evaluation and growth.

The US trade embargo to Cuba was slapped in 1962 and has lasted 48 years. It was put in place so as to demand a democratic way off leadership in the Cuban government (Jafari, 2003). The US trade embargo has a great impact on Cuban tourism industry this are both positive and negative.

Analysts argue that the US trade embargo on Cuba had more of positive impacts than negative impact. Tourism industry in Cuba was mainly focused on Havana. Just like the Cuban economy, Cuban tourism was largely depending on US foreign investment. On the day before the Batista regime’s downfall, tourism numbers had recorded arrivals of about 350,000.

Tourism in Cuba was, as a result, ranked the second largest foreign exchange earner after sugar (Shackley, 2006). The immediate Castro’s regime that took over the country started building a relationship with USSR. This led to the United States slapping of an economic embargo on Cuba. This restricted movement of goods and people (Gonzalez, 2007).

The country’s leader Castro came up with a suggestion to curb the US economic embargo to Cuba, so that it fails to impact negatively on the tourism industry. Fidel discouraged international tourism and instead proposed domestic tourism. This was implemented the way Castro wanted it to be as his regime was dictatorial. This strategy did not work well for Cuba as the tourism industry was negatively affected.

The international tourism arrivals declined to only 10,000 arrivals. As a result, the tourism industry nose dived economically. It was the worst drop ever in Cuban tourism industry. The Cuban administration started coming to terms with impact the US trade embargo had imposed on Cuban tourism industry (Pedraza, 2007).

The industry was natured again, and this came with the establishment of a body to deal with the packaging, attracting and over seeing the international tourists. The industry was expanded more by the establishment of more beach resorts.

This started improving the tourism industry steadily, and in a few years, the arrivals went back to almost the same level they were at Batista regime’s exit. When the USSR collapsed it led to fall of tourism again. A complete over haul of the economy was implemented with mass tourism expected to generate hard currency and attract over sea’s capital (Osieja, 2006).

With the collapse of USSR and the tightening of US trade embargo on Cuba, it was expected that the tourism industry could not pick up anytime soon. The Cuban government strategy, however, made unexpected improvement in the economy. At that time, there were arrivals of about one million recorded from mainly South America, Canada and Western Europe. This was a boost to the then struggling Cuban tourism industry under the regime of revolutionist; Fidel Castro (Hufbauer, 2007).

The slapping of the trade embargo on Cuba led to the establishment of better strategies by the Cuban government on the tourism industry. The main strategy was to stop the dependence on single foreign country investments for the growth of the tourism industry. The Cuban government then started to diversify the tourism product by ensuring sustainable utilization of the natural resources, thus; it revolved to alternative tourism.

This was made possible because Cuba has natural resources and cultural practices of major touristic value (Haass, 1998). In Cuba, these places of natural beauty are found close to urban areas, which boosts of, a rich architectural heritage. The government has gone a great mile in documenting and protecting these areas of touristic value. This was done through the establishment of systems and use of the already existing systems like wildlife refuges, UN biosphere reserves and national parks (Kurtz, 2008).

The US trade embargo imposed to Cuba destabilized the tourism industry in the beginning, but it later picked up. It performed extremely well than before, as a result of the commitment by the Cuban government. Cuban policy makers are upholding the tourism industry in an endeavor to assist the island’s fraught economy (Kristol, 2009).

While tourism expenditures engender noteworthy sum of foreign exchange, the allied development and augmented number of guests in certain expanses has endangered Cuba’s environment. Coastal areas are of meticulous environmental concern since new beach front hotels are being erected in principal surroundings for a diversity of exceptional species (Engerman, 2000).

The impact of the US trade embargo is now having a positive aspect on the tourism after 48 years. So as, to put up with the quick tourism augmentation, the hotel sector has more than twice the existing accommodation in the last decade. By 1999, there were 189 hotels with over 30,000 bed capacity. Hotel building has gone on in a smooth way. In that, in the last four years, there has been the establishment of 22 five star hotels (Hambouz & khan, 2002).

In recent years, Cuba has accepted foreigners to invest in the tourism industry but at a low percentage. The government did so with caution, so as not to be kicked out of business by the foreigners.

It appears to be well alert of the threat. For example, giving way of its tourism industry to foreign investment has been convoyed by regulations. In that it prohibits ordinary Cubans from taking a vacation in foreign lodges and tourist properties. As a result, the citizens of Cuba have criticized their government for promoting “tourism apartheid (Brenner, 2008).


The US trade embargo on Cuba has brought about a lot of change in strategy, in the Cuba tourism industry. In the beginning, the tourism industry was vastly affected in a negative perspective. The industry, however, underwent rapid make over that brought it back to its feet. The recovery of the industry was as a result of commitment from the government of Cuba to detach it from foreign dependency. In the beginning, the industry was much affected because it largely depended on the US investments.

The economic isolation resulted in the decline, in economic growth, and as a result, the tourism industry was also affected. In that the revenues from the industry drastically diminished (Tulchin, et, al.). The US trade embargo also affected the tourism industry in that a lot of jobs in the tourism industry were lost. The few existing tourism facilities had to retrench some of the work force so as to curb with the low income generated from the industry.


Aust, A. (2010). Handbook of International Law. New York. Cambridge University Press

Brenner, P. (2008). A contemporary Cuba reader: reinventing the Revolution. Rowman & Littlefield

Engelman, S. (2000). The Cambridge economic history of the United States: the colonial era, Volume 1. New York. Cambridge University Press

Gonzalez, E. (2007). Cuban exiles on the trade embargo: interviews. North Carolina. McFarland and company Inc

Haass, R. (1998). Economic sanctions and American diplomacy. New York. Council on Foreign Relations

Hambouz, A & khan, J. (2002). Cuba on my mind. New York. The New York Times. Viewed on learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2002/05/22/cuba-on-my-mind/?scp=10&sq=the%20impact%20of%20US%20embargo%20on%20cuba%20tourism&st=cse

Hufbauer, G. (2007). Economic sanctions reconsidered. Washington DC.Peterson Institute.

Jafari, J. (2003). Encyclopedia of tourism. New York. Routledge

Kristol, N. (2009). Invade Cuba — with tourists. New York. The New York Times. Viewed on kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/invade-cuba-with-tourists/?scp=1&sq=the%20impact%20of%20US%20embargo%20on%20cuba%20tourism&st=cse

Kurtz, D. (2008). Contemporary Marketing. New Jersey. Cengage Learning.

Osieja, H. (2006). Economic Sanctions as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy: The Case of the U.S Embargo against Cuba. Florida. Universal-Publishers.

Pedraza, S. (2007). Political disaffection in Cuba’s revolution and exodus. New York. Cambridge University Press

Shackley, M. (2006). Atlas of travel and tourism development. Oxford. Butterworth-Heinemann

Tulchin, J, Serbín, A & Hernández, R. (1997). Cuba and the Caribbean: regional issues and trends in the post-Cold War era. New Jersey. Rowman & Littlefield

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Impact of U.S. Trade Embargo on Cuba Tourism." May 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-impact-of-u-s-trade-embargo-on-cuba-tourism-research-paper/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Impact of U.S. Trade Embargo on Cuba Tourism'. 28 May.

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