Cuba To Welcome 5 Million Visitors In 2019

This year could be a banner year for Cuban tourism.

As the Caribbean island continues to court foreign vacationers, the tourism ministry announced that they expect over five million visitors in 2019.

If the island hits their goal, it will be the 12th consecutive year of growth in tourism numbers for the Pearl of the Antilles, with 7.4% growth between 2018 and 2019, said the ministry. Tourism incomes are estimated to exceed 3 billion dollars in Cuba in 2019 , according to the ministry.

Experts say that the expansion of accommodation choices – including five-star hotels in Havana – as well as the increase in competitively priced hotels and casa particulares has resulted in more interest for vacationers. Additionally, in November, Havana will celebrate its 500th year anniversary.

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“Five million is realistic,” said John McAuliff, executive director of Fund for Reconciliation and Development, in an email. “Americans are slowly waking up to the reality that they are still free to travel independently under the Support for the Cuban People license.”

Continuing, he said that “the number could go even higher if Congress ends all restrictions on travel by Americans. Under Democratic control, the House could match bipartisan support in the Senate to allow normal travel and agricultural sales.”

The top two tourism markets remain Canada and the United States, although Americans are still prohibited from visiting Cuba for tourism explicitly. (Americans can still travel to Cuba legally under one of these 12 permitted categories.)

Cuba has also launched promotional campaigns recently to attract more travelers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain as well as emerging markets like China, Vietnam and South Africa.

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Although regulations dictate that Americans are not allowed to go on a ‘typical’ beach vacation while exploring the country, Steve Powers, owner of Hidden Treasure Tours in Long Beach, New York, said during last month's New York Times Travel Show that traveling to Cuba legally remains a great deal as compared to the rest of the Caribbean, thanks to cheap, commercial flights from the US.

In 2018, the island welcomed 4.78 million visitors with less than one million of those travelers arriving by cruise ship.

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World Awards Back Cuban Tourist Destinations' Quality

Havana, Jan 5 (Prensa Latina) Cuba holds today various awards that distinguish its accommodations and tourist destinations as some of the most outstanding in the area, and even in the world.

Thus, during the last weeks of 2018, the Buenavista and Paradisus Rio de Oro hotels, both belonging to the Melia Cuba hotel chain, received the Condé Nast Johansens 2019 Excellence Award for the region of Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The facilities, located in the tourist poles of Cayo Santa Maria and Holguin, respectively, are distinguished by high standards of comfort and a refined gastronomic offer.

According to Melia, this distinction is the result of quality surveys of guests added to the assessment of the international team of inspectors and is a relevant worldwide recognition to the travel and tourism industry.

Also, just a few days ago, Varadero was ranked third best beach in the world according to the Travellers' Choice 2018 Awards.

The award, based on the opinions of millions of visitors of different nationalities, places the Cuban resort in the third seat only preceded by Grace Bay beach (Turks and Caicos Islands), and Baia Do Sancho, in Brazil.

There are currently 52 hotels in Varadero, according to recent data released by the delegation of the Ministry of Tourism in the province of Matanzas.

On top of that, the World Travel Awards, in its 2019 edition, included seven facilities of the Melia Cuba chain in its list of nominations according to information provided by the corporation.

Created in 1993, the World Travel Awards distinguish quality in various activities related to the global travel and tourism industry and are currently recognized internationally as a seal of excellence for the tourism industry.

In addition, he added, it is estimated that for the first time tourism revenues exceed three billion dollars, representing an increase of 17 percent in this field.

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Havana will be re-launched as a renewed tourist destination

The 500th anniversary of Havana will be the opportunity to relaunch the capital as a renewed and updated tourist destination, said Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz.

Marrero said in recent statements to the weekly magazine Opciones that they take advantage of major events to update the tourism product and make new investments that contribute to development, and the half a millennium of the town of San Cristobal is no exception.

He said that in the country are averaged about five thousand new rooms for this year, and in the case of the capital, from this time until next year, must be put into operation 12 new accommodation facilities.

Marrero Cruz commented that most will be small and medium buildings, using houses with heritage values, such as Portales de Paseo and others with tourism prospects given to them by the Government.

Now we are going through a process of recovery and transformation to convert them into hotels of medium-high standard, and are promoted works in several locations in the Siboney neighborhood, Miramar, as well as the so-called Blue Vedado, in the Plaza de la Revolución.

The development program itself will also allow, before November 2019, the opening in Old Havana of the Prado y Malecón hotel, the Gran Hotel, and the Cueto.

He commented that in Havana there are more than 12 thousand rooms, but more than half of them have a three-star category, which is why the new investments are aimed precisely at incorporating a very competitive hotel plant such as the Kempinski Manzana and the Packard.

The change of image is one of the most important processes in cities that celebrate closed number anniversaries, in the case of the capital highlights, above all, the large investment that is made in the recovery of heritage, he said.

He said that in the extra-hotel network there are several facilities that in one way or another renew their product, an aspect in which the Palmares Group works.

It is planned to repair units such as La Cecilia, El Floridita, La Bodeguita del Medio, El Gato Tuerto and La Ferminia, a very nice restaurant but with a not very competitive product, he said.

The restaurant Don Cangrejo will be transformed into a club of high level, with gastronomic service of high category, it has a magnificent swimming pool next to the sea, however today it is limited to some nocturnal activities and to the gastronomy, he explained.

He added that the technically closed La Giraldilla recreational centre will become a family, recreation and leisure product.

For the 500th anniversary of the city, the Ministry also proposed to rehabilitate the old discotheque of the Comodoro Hotel, which has been closed for many years.

Hacienda Guanabito, located in Guanabo, will have a total restoration that will include peasant houses and a stable that will allow customers to enjoy a Creole atmosphere.

He announced that there is a plan to transform tourist shops such as Primera and B, in the Vedado, and the Palacio de Artesanía, in the Historic Center.

In the case of the Marina Hemingway will continue the work, while in the Marina Tarará there is an extensive program that will promote the change of image and products, he said.

He added that the Tourism Plan for Havana's anniversary has around 40 actions of broad magnitude and interaction, either in the construction of facilities or in total transformations.

More than 50 percent of the visitors that arrive to the Island do so through the capital; practically Havana defines the image of tourism in Cuba, commented the Minister of Tourism.

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New Cruise Ship Itineraries to Link Cuba to the World

New cruise ship itineraries will reportedly link Cuba with the tourism world next year, thus showing the growing attraction of this island for vacations.

A report published by the Cruise Industry News website on this subject has been reproduced by Cuban media. Starting next February, the cruise company Silversea will incorporate Cuba into its itineraries, according to these reports.

The company has announced a series of voyages to the island from the United States for the first time in its history, joining other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian that sail regularly between both countries since 2017.

According to a company statement, Silversea has planned 17 cruises to Cuba from 2019 to 2020.

The report adds that Cuba is an extraordinary island, so they are pleased to offer their guests the opportunity to discover the most authentic sounds, sights and flavors of their culture, while contacting their travel agent meticulously trained.

For Silversea CEO Roberto Martinoli, since the opportunity to travel to Cuba on cruise ships was opened to Americans, they have been waiting for this moment.

For his part, Silversea's director for the Americas, Mark Conroy, added that they are pleased to have Cuba in their 2019 and 2020 travel collection.

He said Cuba is the fastest growing destination in the Caribbean, which many luxury cruise passengers are eager to explore, knowing they can enrich their experience with a fresh perspective on the people, traditions and natural wonders of this island.

As part of the company's plans, the Silver Wind will open the Silversea to Cuba cruise season on February 14, 2019, when it will sail from San Juan de Puerto Rico to Fort Lauderdale on a seven-night voyage to include visits to Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Bimini.

The Silver Spirit will depart San Juan on February 22nd on a 10-night cruise that includes a one-night stay in Santiago de Cuba and stops in Cienfuegos and Havana, as well as stops at George Town, Key West and Bimini, before closing the voyage in Fort Lauderdale.

The report added that on March 31, the Silver Wind will sail from San Juan and visit Santiago and Havana on one-night stopovers, as well as Cienfuegos. The 10-night itinerary will also travel through George Town (Cayman Islands) and Bimini.

In April, departing from Fort Lauderdale on the 10th, the Silver Wind will sail a nine-night cruise that will make one-night stops in Havana and Santiago, in addition to arriving in Bimini, Nassau and Port Canaveral.

There will be a 14-night cruise on the Silver Whisper, departing November 22 from Fort Lauderdale. The round trip will include a visit to Cienfuegos and overnight stays in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, as well as port in Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize City and Key West.

He concluded the statement by declaring that Cuba will be part of Silversea's itineraries on another 12 cruises throughout 2020.

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Uzbekistan, Cuba eye to develop co-op in tourist sector

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov received the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga on Sept. 24, 2018, Uzbek media reported.

According to the Uzbek Foreign Ministry's press service, the Cuban delegation arrived in Tashkent on a working visit.

During the meeting, the diplomats discussed the state of bilateral relations. They noted an interest in deepening the Uzbek-Cuban dialogue in various areas of mutual interest.

Despite the geographical distance, Uzbekistan and Cuba are ready to develop economic ties, using the high potential and real opportunities of both countries.

During the meeting, the diplomats also exchanged views on the prospects for expanding tourist, cultural and humanitarian exchanges on a mutually beneficial basis.

On the same day, the Foreign Ministry hosted the first round of inter-MFA political consultations. Cuban Ambassador Alfredo Nieves Portuando took part in the negotiations.

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Venezuela and Cuba Consolidate Cooperation in Tourism

Venezuelan Minister of Tourism, Stella Lugo, and her Cuban peer, Manuel Marrero, had a meeting to evaluate cooperation between both nations in that sector, as part of the work tour that Lugo is carrying out in Cuba.

The meeting included the updated presentation of the sector's progress in the Caribbean nation, where the Cuban representative exposed the potentialities and challenges of this activity, says a press release published by the foreign ministry of Venezuela.

During the meeting held at the headquarters of the Cuban ministry, Marrero gave a detailed explanation on the peculiarities of international and local tourism, the impact of the U.S. blockade on the nation as well as the business opportunities offered by this territory.

For her part, Lugo, who makes her first visit abroad, thanked her peer for the advice given to Venezuela by the island for some years now regarding this sector. The Venezuelan high official also recognized the advances of the island in this activity despite the U.S. unilateral blockade, which has generated damages for over 26 billion dollars, according to data offered by the Cuban Minister in his presentation

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Cuba receives 2,5 Mln tourists in first half 2018

Cuba is on track to meet its target of drawing 5 million foreign visitors by the end of 2018, with 2.5 million international tourists arriving in the first half of the year, local media reported on Saturday.

The latest tourism figures were released during a cabinet meeting presided over by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, state daily Granma said.

Cuba's Tourism Ministry was lauded for its efforts to recover tourism flows in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, which lashed northern Cuba in 2017.

The strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, Irma caused damage to some resorts, but officials moved quickly to rebuild and renovate them since tourism is one of Cuba's leading economic engines.

In 2017, 4.7 million foreign visitors traveled to Cuba, an 11.6-percent increase from the year before.

Considered a strategic industry for the Caribbean island nation, tourism generates annual revenues of more than 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, the second-biggest foreign revenue-earning industry after exports.

The industry has contributed 10 percent of Cuba's national budget and provided half a million jobs.

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U.S. Tourism to Cuba Revives After Months-Long Trump Slump-Sources

U.S. tourism in Cuba bounced back in June from a months-long slump, bolstered by increased visits from cruise ships that have emerged as the most vibrant part of a sector hurt by deteriorating relations under President Donald Trump.

Three different sources with access to Cuban tourism industry data said 68,000 Americans, not including Americans of Cuban origin on family visits, travelled to the island in June, a 5 percent increase from a year ago.

Even with that revival, the number of U.S. visitors to Cuba for the first half overall - not including Cuban-Americans - slumped 24 percent to 266,000, the sources said.

In the period January through June, some 50 percent of those U.S. visitors arrived on cruise ships, compared with 25 percent a year earlier, as operators such as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd added more stops on the island to their itineraries.

The drop in U.S. travel in the first half in part mirrored a broader decline in the Cuban tourism industry as it struggled to recover from last year’s devastating hurricane season in the Caribbean, the sources said.

Still there was also a notable impact from the hostile Trump administration, which has sought to reverse some of Democratic former President Barack Obama's opening to the island and has cracked down on independent Cuban travel by Americans.

Overall tourist arrivals to Cuba were down over 5 percent in the January-June period to roughly 2.5 million. That figure included the number of visitors arriving on cruise ships during the first six months, which was 379,000, up 45 percent.

In terms of boosting the economy, cruise arrivals tend to spend little, while those vacationing on the island spend much more at hotels, bed and breakfasts and restaurants.

The U.S. trade embargo restricts Americans who visit the island to non-tourist activities such as cultural, religious and educational travel or family visits.

The overall visitor numbers also included Cuban-Americans visiting their homeland. That number increased by 21 percent during the first half of this year, to more than 250,000, compared with the same period in 2017, in part because it has become more difficult for relatives to visit the United States, the sources said.

Unexplained health incidents that sickened 26 U.S. diplomats, which the United States has sometimes referred to as attacks, led Washington to cut its Havana embassy to a skeletal staff last year, forcing Cubans to travel to third countries for U.S. visas.

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