US visitors to Cuba on the rise

HAVANA, Cuba, Apr 26 (acn) Cuba saw an increasing number of US visitors in the first quarter of this year, following the ease of travel restrictions implemented by the Obama administration, said a Cuban tourist expert.

In conversation with Caribbean News webpage, Cuban economist and tourism professor Jose Perelló said a 94 percent increase has been observed despite the fact that US citizens cannot come as tourists as they are banned to do so by US law.

Cuba was visited by one million 300 thousand vacationers from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK over the past few months and the figure includes a large number of US visitors, who applied to licenses to travel to the island, as stipulated by the Obama administration.

But along with the boom in US visitors, cruise ship companies from that country, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Pearl Seas Cruises and Princess Cruises have already submitted proposals of itineraries with stop-overs in Havana and in other Cuban harbors.

Major US airline companies like American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest, Eastern, Frontier and United Airlines are also bidding for direct commercial flights to Cuba, which would translate into 50 thousand passenger capacities a week to the island.

In the recent 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, Tourism minister Manuel Marrero said that the island will have 108 thousand 717 new hotel rooms by 2030.
Cuba intends to make tourism a strategic and major source of income for its economy, an idea expressed by President Raul Castro in his report to the Congress.

Over the past five years, nearly 11 thousand new hotel rooms were built and another 7 000 were repaired, which adds to more than 14 thousand rooms in rented homes, a private initiative that continues to increase following growing tourist accommodation demand on the island.

In 2015, Cuba received more than three million foreign visitors for the first time, a figure that, according to local authorities, is expected to increase this year.

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