Cuba working toward US tourism bonanza

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Manuel Marrero.

TRAVEL GAZETTE – Cuba is getting ready for a growing number of U.S. travelers in coming years by building new hotels, renovating its main airport and expanding its cruise terminal.

“More than 94,000 U.S. citizens have visited Cuba in the first four months of this year, 93 percent more than in the same period of 2015,” said Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero.

In 2015, 161,233 U.S. citizens traveled to the island, up 76 percent from 2014, since the U.S. government relaxed restrictions to reflect the rapprochement.

At the moment, travel restrictions on U.S. citizens remains in place and Americans are only allowed to travel to Cuba for educational, religious and other purposes.

“U.S. nationals can’t travel here freely for tourism purposes,” said the minister, while acknowledging the White House effort to partially lift the Cold War-era ban as “positive.”

“These measures along with the start of regular commercial flights next fall will contribute to a growing number of U.S. travelers in the near future,” he added.

Cuba is also very interested in the arrival of cruise ships from the United States, and is in talks with several companies to develop new routes for the 2016-2017 winter high season.

Cuba’s tourism infrastructure is already with a capacity of accommodating some 3.5 million foreign visitors last year, so the government has launched an ambitious development plan to handle the added influx.

“The demand for hotel rooms is greater than the current offer but we are speeding up the construction of high-end hotels,” the minister said.

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