Socialist Cuba Sees Record Surge in Tourism in 2016

The island’s tourist boom is also expected to increase in 2017. 

Cuba’s tourism industry grew more than expected in 2016, with over 4 million international tourists visiting the socialist country last year and this year, and even more expected to visit as the country becomes more accessible due to greater numbers of international flights.

Cuba outperformed its original goal of 3.8 million international tourists by 6 percent and in 2017 is expecting to receive more than 4.1 million people, the country’s Ministry of Tourism said.

North America and Europe were Cuba’s biggest markets for tourism, where the numbers of visitors increased by 13 percent from 2015 levels. While U.S. citizens are technically prohibited from traveling to the nation because of the ongoing blockade, increasing numbers are flocking to the island.

Cuba’s increasing tourism sector has been facilitated through the country’s National Development Plan for 2030 as well as an increasing number of new and established flights to the island from around the world.

Last year, travel restrictions were eased by President Obama including the announcement of regular flights between the U.S. and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, with low-cost U.S. carrier JetBlue. Silver Airways and American Airlines are expected to also start their own routes.

In December, Dallas-based carrier Southwest Airlines launched its inaugural flight from Tampa to Havana, with 156 passengers.

In Europe, Austrian Airlines and Russia’s Azur Air started weekly flights to Cuba and Virgin Atlantic added a weekly London to Havana connection. French carriers, Xl Airways and Air Caraibes have also added Cuban flights. The ministry said that more than 165,000 French tourists arrived to the island in 2016.

According to figures released by the Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information in November, Tourist revenue in Cuba had reached over $US1.2 billion in the first half of 2016 alone.

by teleSUR / mm-CM-DB

teleSUR, January 7, 2017

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