Exit Varadero. Isla Margarita is the new Russian and Cuban ghetto in the Caribbean

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Since 2021, more than 21,000 Russian tourists have visited Venezuela’s Margarita Island in the southeastern Caribbean Sea when air charter operations between Moscow and Porlamar began.

This is part of a “strategic plan” by dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime to promote tourism in his country. Thousands of Cuban tourists also arrived on Margarita last year and Polish travelers are expected on the island in the coming months thanks to a cooperation agreement signed between Venezuela and Poland in January, according to the tourism ministry. .

Cubans have found a potential market on the island for groceries, daily necessities and other duty-free items that are hard to find in Cuba due to the country’s deep economic crisis.

Alí Padrón, Venezuelan tourism minister, said last January that the main arrivals are “small Cuban businessmen” who spend an average of $5,000 per person just to buy products.

Russia was already one of Cuba’s main tourist players, even taking the top spot in 2021 during the pandemic, but was ousted in 2022 after Western economic sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, as companies Russian airlines had to avoid European airspace and the flights were more expensive.

According to the Cuban National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), arrivals of Russian travelers in January 2023 fell by 47.1% to just 10,275 arrivals.

In early 2023, Isla Margarita also received the first cruise ship in 15 years; it is the German ship Amadea, which arrived with nearly 500 tourists from countries including Spain, Germany and France, according to information from the Venezuelan government.

Catherine Mills Avatar