Cuban president officially inaugurates new hotel in Varadero

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel officially inaugurated the new, five-star Hotel Meliá Internacional Varadero, located at Cuba's most famous beach resort.

The hotel has 946 rooms and will become a hotel of excellence, according to the president's official Twitter account -- @PresidenciaCuba.

Last month, the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, described the opening of the installation as successful, which has several restaurants, cafes and swimming pools.

At the end of June, Cuba had a total of 72,965 hotel rooms, of which 2,081 have been built in 2019.  At the end of this year, the incorporation of 4,197 new rooms is planned.

Marrero reported that during the last session of the parliament -- the National Assembly of People's Power -- it was announced that Cuba hopes to attract more than 4.3 million visitors in 2019.

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Cruise lines sued in the US under law of blockade on Cuba

Five new lawsuits were filed Tuesday in the United States against three cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise and MSC Cruises) under Title III of the controversial Helms-Burton Law against Cuba.

The Seatrade Cruise News website reported that two plaintiffs took that legal step in the southern state of Florida, after a federal judge yesterday rejected a motion requested by another cruise company, Carnival Corp., to dismiss a lawsuit against it, also under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

Helms-Burton, which was approved by the US Congress in 1996, codifies the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington against Cuba almost 60 years ago.

Although it entered into force at that time, all administrations since then suspended the application of the aforementioned title, which allows US nationals to sue those who 'traffic' with 'North American properties' on the Caribbean island.

Through this section, that the executive of the Republican Donald Trump decided to activate this year, there is the possibility of promoting legal actions against individuals and entities, including from third countries, that invest in Cuban territory in nationalized properties after the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959.

One of the plaintiffs of this Tuesday is Javier García, who also filed in May the aforementioned claim against Carnival Corp. and now takes a similar step against Norwegian Cruise and Royal Caribbean, on the grounds that he owns the port of the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.

In addition, lawsuits were filed against Norwegian Cruise, Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises on behalf of Havana Docks Corporation, a company belonging to Michael Behn that claims to be the 'legitimate owner of certain commercial real estate' in the Port of Havana.

Like Garcia, Havana Docks Corporation also filed a claim against Carnival Corp. on May 2, the same day the Trump administration allowed the activation of Title III as part of its hostile policies against Cuba.

This last cruise line asked Judge James Lawrence King to dismiss García Bengochea's claim, arguing that he had sufficient permission from the Treasury Department to do business in Cuba, but in his ruling yesterday the magistrate said that he was not persuaded.

The decision of the US Government to allow the application of Title III occurred despite the fact that numerous voices inside and outside the United States condemned this resurgent action of the blockade, which is mainly aimed at depriving the Caribbean country of foreign investment.

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Travelers Appreciate Diving in Cuba

The increase in tourism in Cuba has many edges today, when even pilgrims from all over the world appreciate the practice of diving and snorkeling in the insular waters.

This opinion is supported by officials of the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) consulted by Prensa Latina, who stress the intention of authorities to diversify offers for vacations.

Hence, the Cuban virgin nature has a particular charm in the case of the seabed.

In that line, many experts agree with the interests of tourists when choosing or recommending sites for contemplative diving in this archipelago.

The list includes for such purposes the Isla de la Juventud, with Cayo Largo del Sur, in the southwestern portion of the archipelago, María La Gorda, the North Havana coast, Varadero, Zapata Peninsula, Santiago de Cuba, North Camagüey, Holguin, Jardines del Rey and Jardines de la Reina.

The last mentioned is one of the best scenarios visited especially by professionals, while the Gardens of the Queen constitute a wonderful place.

The Cuban sea bottoms give the visitor a unique possibility of saving very particular memories.

There are several meetings including underwater photography that are organized in different parts of the coast and the island platform, taking advantage of the well-preserved beauties, the climate and an appropriate infrastructure.

A Mintur report indicated the existence of more than 500 well-studied diving areas around Cuba, with underwater landscapes, exotic corners, caves, vertical walls and tunnels.

You can also find cliff and canal divers with endless options for this practice, both day and night. However, the ships sunk of the Spanish fleet in earlier times still hold secrets to discover.

The coral formations are located a few meters from the coasts, allowing to protect beaches and the attractive scenery. Both the north and south coasts include promising keys, among the ideal places to dive.

In addition, archeology has very particular spaces, since the remains of ships rest on the seabed, reflecting the strong commercial activity in the region for centuries, the occurrence of war events and other causes such as shipwrecks.

Interesting examples are the areas surrounding Santiago de Cuba, 900 kilometers east of Havana, with numerous shipwrecks witnesses of the naval battle of the Spanish-Cuban-American War in 1898.

It is estimated that over 500 years, more than a thousand ships were sunk in its waters; among them galleons with treasures of the New World.victims of pirates and storms.

Diving enriches the recreational landscape of the island and induces methods of beauty appreciation, without damaging the funds and preserving the landscapes for the future.

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Tour Operators Welcome 3 Million Tourists to Cuba

Tour operators working with this destination expressed their satisfaction on Friday for the arrival of three million tourists to Cuba so far this year.

Many noted that this figure represents the upward spiral of the Cuban travel industry, despite Washington's economic measures against Havana, including new restrictions on visits by US citizens.

The Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) notified on Thursday that three million international visitors had arrived in Cuba so far this year.

This result is achieved despite campaigns organized and directed by the US government to dissuade travelers from visiting Cuba.

It also demonstrates the confidence and recognition achieved by the Cuban tourism sector as a destination that offers security and quality to its visitors, MINTUR stated.

Canada remains Cuba's top international tourist market, followed by several European markets, with Russia standing out for the highest growth rate and development prospects for the coming seasons.

MINTUR's strategies include diversifying offers, to provide nature trips, congresses, recreational and nautical, cultural and rural tourism, in addition to the traditional Sun and Beach destinations.

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Cuban resort Varadero gets its biggest sand replenishment

Cuba's renowned sea resort Varadero, located some 140 km east of Havana, is undergoing its biggest sand replenishment operation to combat erosion.

Over 1.5 million cubic meters of sand are being laid on the beautiful beach, which extends for more than 22 km on the long and narrow Hicacos Peninsula.

From August to October, the first phase of the operation is planned to be carried out in Varadero's six major sections.

The sand replenishment "is done with the same sand that is accumulated at some points of the basin. We bring that sand to the eroded zones," director of environment management Yasiel Martinez said.

A study on sand compatibility was earlier conducted by specialists with Gamma Investments SA, a company under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

When hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean island country in September 2017, specialists monitored the evolution of Varadero and assessed its state.

Their study report revealed that successive beach nourishment works and continuous integrated management of the beach have proven effective, ensuring that Varadero has a volume of sand large enough to counter extreme weathers.

Moreover, the sand replenishment work at Varadero known also as "Blue Beach" facilitates the creation of sandbars, which causes waves to break long before reaching the coast and thus better protect the shoreline.

More than 80 percent of Cuban beaches have suffered coastline erosion that averages 1.2 meters per year, and is more serious than this level in some areas.

According to a government report last year, the sun area of Varadero is close to 950,000 square meters, which could receive nearly 95,000 visitors, complying with the international standard of 10 square meters for a swimmer. In the last three years, Varadero has received more than 1.5 million tourists each season.

Dr. Jose Luis Juanes with the Institute of Marine Sciences of Cuba said coastline erosion is closely associated with human activity.

Researchers from Cuba, the United States, France and Puerto Rico believe that the estimated rate of retreat of the coastline varied between 0.27 and 2.5 meters per year in the Caribbean.

"In 2050, that rate will be 0.29 meters, and 0.95 meters by 2100", Juanes said.

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Varadero wagers on more Russian tourism

The world-famous Varadero beach resort is wagering on Russian tourism to increase its number of international visitors in 2019.

Russian tour operator Coral Travel will begin operations in Cuba’s largest sun and beach destination on August 10, when the first flight of the Royal Flight airline from Moscow will land at the Varadero airport, Prensa Latina (PL) reported.

The flight, which will have a frequency every ten days, will use a Boeing 777 with capacity for 492 passengers.

The Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) said that this new channel with Russia “will strengthen the growth of the aforementioned market” and attributed the preference of Russian visitors for the resort to “the excellence of the tourist services offered.”

Coral Travel operations in Varadero will be carried out through the Meeting Point Company and under the representation of the local Cubatur travel agency, PL noted.

According to MINTUR, Russian tourists rank in second place among foreign visitors to the famous beach, only preceded by those from Canada.

Varadero, which has more than 50 hotel facilities and 21,000 rooms, receives more than 1.5 million tourists a year.

The Russian market is one of the fastest growing for tourism in Cuba. In 2018 it reached around 137,000 visitors, a figure that MINTUR expects to surpass this year.

Currently, Cuban tourism is suffering the consequences of the recent measures of the Donald Trump government, which further restricted U.S. travel to the Island and banned U.S. cruise ships from visiting Cuban ports.

This is why Cuba drastically reduced its forecast of foreign visitors expected in 2019, when it lowered the initial plan of more than 5 million tourists―an all-time record for the island―to only 4.3 million, and is seeking to boost emerging markets such as Russia, China and Latin America.

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Díaz-Canel: Every tourist who visits us is breaking the U.S. blockade

Recently held was a government meeting to review progress in tourism, one of six strategic sectors identified in the country’s Development Plan. Basic issues analyzed included current investment projects, the development of productive chains with other industries, and substitution of imported supplies with domestic products.

During the meeting, chaired by Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Councils of State and Ministers, the importance of tourism as a driving force in the Cuban economy was emphasized.

The President said that everything this sector brings to the country in economic and social matters should not be overlooked, in addition to being a bridge to the world, since every tourist visiting the country is breaking the U.S. blockade. "That's why we must defend it, that's why we must make it more efficient," he stated, as reported on the Presidency’s website.

With First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa and Mercedes López Acea, Party Political Bureau member, also on hand, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, reported that 2,081 hotel rooms were completed this year, through the end of June, to reach a total of 72,965 across the country. By the end of 2019, the incorporation of another 4,197 is planned - 97% of which are in 26 new hotels, while the remaining 3% represent expansions.Referring to real estate development projections, the Minister pointed out that 13 new projects are planned, along with seven recreational projects, with special emphasis on those that have been conceived in the context of Havana's 500th anniversary.Regarding the non-state tourism program, Marrero reported that 27,814 self-employed workers are licensed in this arena, including 17,805 homeowners authorized to operate in the CUC market, offering 26,224 rooms.

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New Hotels in Havana

Several media reports and messages from the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) summarize the development of hotels in the Cuban capital, as a distinctive sign of the boom of the tourism industry.

A report from MINTUR refers to the new five-star-plus Hotel Paseo del Prado, and the list of new establishments that will be inaugurated soon in Havana. It will be the first SO/ hotel of the French chain Accor and its inauguration is scheduled for this year. The building will have a tower that resembles a ship's bow.

The SO/ hotels are exciting establishments that are highly-coveted by modern and audacious travelers, according to documents from the French group.

Originally created as an exclusive brand of Sofitel, SO/ is located in exclusive destinations such as Mauritius, Bangkok, Saint Petersburg and Singapore.

The SO/ hotels are places to stay and be seen, as guests are excited by social experiences that capture the vivacity and atmosphere of the place.

SO/ belongs to Accor Hotels, a leading travel and lifestyle group that invites tourists to feel welcomed in 4,500 hotels, resorts and residencies all over the world, as well as 10,000 of the best private houses on the planet.

The ten-story, 5,000-square-meter SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado will offer 250 rooms, including 36 suites.

A few months before turning 500 (November 16), Havana is strongly betting on international tourism.

Havana authorities plan to inaugurate a dozen hotels to increase the total number of rooms to more than 12,500, over 50 percent of which will be in four-and five-star establishments.

In May 2019, the hotels Palacio Cueto, in Old Havana, and Vedado Azul, in El Vedado, were inaugurated.

Plans include the remodeling of the hotels Deauville, Lincoln, Sevilla and Neptuno-Triton, and the reanimation of extrahotel services that include restaurants, marinas, nightclubs and golf courses.

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