Cuba attracts 1m tourists so far in 2016

Cuba has welcomed one million foreign tourists to date in 2016, a 14.6 per cent surge over the same period last year, the Tourism Ministry reports.

Cuba has welcomed one million foreign tourists to date in 2016, a 14.6 per cent surge over the same period last year, the Tourism Ministry (Mintur) reports.

The year has been characterised by “continuous growth” in the number of tourists to Cuba from Germany, Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Argentina, a Mintur statement said.

The note also indicated Cuban tourism companies plan to raise the quality of their services and increase hotel capacity in order to deal with the expected volume of international visitors.

Cuban tourism authorities estimate in 2016 some 3.7 million foreign tourists will visit the Caribbean nation, 175,200 more than in 2015, when the country broke the previous record by receiving 3.5 million travellers.

They also predict that this year stays in state hotel facilities will rise 12.3 per cent on last year.

Re-established diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States sparked a “tourist boom” over the past year, tourism authorities say.

Local economists note that some 145,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2015, 79 per cent more than in the previous year, under the 12 general licences, approved by President Barack Obama, which permit US citizens to travel to the island for a variety of reasons but not yet as tourists.

The leisure industry is now considered the most dynamic sector of the Cuban economy and the second-strongest for earning foreign currency, with revenues of $US1.94 billion ($A2.60 billion) in 2015, up 10.7 per cent over the previous year, the island’s National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI) reported.

AAP, www.sbs.com.au

March 13, 2016

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