PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba, July 29 (Xinhua) — The spectacular landscape of the Vinales Valley is the main attraction of Pinar del Rio province, in the western end of Cuba, but this territory seeks to promote tourism beyond its natural beauty.
Vinales, about 180 km west of Havana, is a valley plenty of rounded mogotes, residual limestone hills found only in western Cuba, Puerto Rico and Southeastern Asia.
The area was proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1999.
Within the valley is nestled a picturesque town, where almost all inhabitants rent rooms to travellers or work in small private restaurants born amid the island’s economic reform.
The number of tourists flowing into the area has increased so much that the Ministry of Tourism has built its own hotel in the center of Vinales town, as part of government plans to favor the development of the sector.
Days ago, the ministry’s investments director, Jose Reinaldo Daniel, disclosed that the ministry will continue supporting infrastructure development so that “the city of Vinales will continue to grow according to the policies established by the government.”
At present, state-run hotels in Pinar del Rio province have only about 500 rooms, while the private sector exceeds 2000.
With Vinales as the main attraction, Pinar del Rio is undergoing boom, achieving an increase of 46 percent in arrivals in 2016, or 845,000 foreign tourists in all, compared to the previous year.
In the first half of this year, the province saw tourism grow by 5 percent, receiving more than 300,000 travelers, most of them attracted to its ecotourism options.
Ernesto Barreto, president of the provincial government, says that with the investments undertaken in the natural park of Guanahacabibes, the arrival of foreign visitors should “multiply several times over.”
The Guanahacabibes peninsula, located at the westernmost point of the island, is a key element in the government’s development plans for Pinar del Rio.
“Now we are working on preparing areas for golf courses, to be built in the westernmost municipality of the island, with an investment considered as the most important in the tourism sector for the next several years,” explained Barreto.
At present, Pinar del Rio offers 47 nature destinations, including the Tobacco Route, a tour which showcases the entire process of sowing and harvesting tobacco and the process of manufacturing the famed Premium Habano cigars.
Two years ago, Pinar del Rio hosted the X International Nature Tourism Conference (Turnat-2015), when Cuban Tourism Minister, Manuel Marrero, stressed that the island is committed to responsible and sustainable tourism.
Marrero pointed to Cuba’s outstanding natural parks and reserves as places to take full advantage of environmental and adventure tourism.