Cuba aims for 4.2 million tourists this year, works to expand hotel sector

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Cuba has received two million foreign visitors so far this year, reaching the mark 39 days earlier than in 2016, Manuel Marrero, Cuba’s minister of tourism, announced Wednesday.

At the inauguration of the country’s 37th International Tourism Fair (FITCuba 2017), Marrero said this figure represents a 15 percent increase in the arrival of visitors to the island and will help to reach the goal of 4.2 million tourists this year.

FITCuba, considered the most important tourism event in the country, is being held in the eastern province of Holguin, about 750 km east of Havana, and known for its pristine beaches, natural beauty and cultural heritage.

According to the Cuban minister, Canada and the U.S. accounted for 45 percent of foreign visitors to the country during the first quarter.

“The arrival of U.S. visitors continues to increase. It did so by 18 percent in the first four months of this year, despite regulations by Washington which still bans its citizens from travelling as tourists to our country,” he said.

To meet the high demand, Marrero indicated Cuba is actively working to expand its accommodation capacity, which currently has 65,000 rooms.

“We’re heavily investing in destinations like Vinales (west), Santa Clara and Cienfuegos (center) and Camaguey, Bayamo, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba (east),” he added.

Tourism development plans for Havana include the construction of three new luxury hotels and the upcoming opening of the Gran Manzana Kempinski Hotel, the country’s first five-star-plus hotel.

Marrero also said that the rise in tourism had been mirrored by a rise in tourism services by Cuba’s emerging private sector.

“There are more than 21,000 private homes which rent rooms all over the country and over 2,000 private restaurants and cafeterias,” he stated.

FITCuba will take place until May 6 in Playa Pesquero, Holguin, with Germany appearing as the guest of honor.

The event will see travel agents, advertising agencies, airlines and tour operators attend professional and business exchanges, exhibitions and the launching of new services and products.

The program includes visits to tourist sites such as Biran, the town where Fidel and Raul Castro were born; Baracoa, the first village founded by the Spanish in 1511 and Santiago de Cuba, the second most important city in the island.

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