HAVANA._ The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) named Cuba the second leading tourist destination in the Caribbean in the first quarter of 2015, only preceded by the Dominican Republic, the local press reported.
The difference in the number of tourist arrivals recorded by the two countries is getting smaller. According to the Granma Daily, Cuba welcomed 3.1 million visitors in 2014 while the Dominican Republican received around 5.1 million, whereas in the first quarter of this year, 1,135,610 tourists visited Cuba and 1,499,402 the Dominican Republic.
According to official estimates, Canada was the number one issuing market of tourists to Cuba from January to March this year, with 551,360 visitors. This flow may rise considerably in the future resulting from the agreements recently signed by the two countries to improve air connections and increase the frequency of flights.
Meanwhile, the CTO believes this rising trend could negatively affect Puerto Rico, because, while the number of tourist arrivals to Cuba grew by 15 percent in the first quarter of this year, Puerto Ricoâ�Ös only increased by a mere 0.3 percent.
The easing of travel restrictions to Cuba for U.S. citizens may also trigger the alarm for the Puerto Rican tourism industry because, having been a market so far forbidden for U.S. tourists, the Cuban destination could become a very strong competitor.
Since last December, the interest in Cuba as a tourist destination has grown all over the world, as corroborated by the increase in the number of flights by different airlines, the resumption of others or the launching of new air routes.
With the objective of maintaining that growth rate in the tourism industry, Cuba is adding more than 3,000 rooms to its largest tourist resorts, while encouraging the participation of the non-state sector in the offers promoted by travel agencies.
The number of tourist arrivals in the Caribbean region grew by six percent from January to April this year, and a similar growth rate is expected for the rest of the year, according to the CTO.
In the first four months of 2015, the Caribbean islands welcomed a total of 7.9 million tourists, mostly from the United States and Canada, said the CTO chairman Richard Sealy.