Thawing ties with US boosts Cuba's tourism
Updated: 2015-07-13 13:51
HAVANA - Tourism in Cuba has seen rapid growth since the Caribbean island and the United States announced the decision to seek rapprochement in December 2014, the Cuban News Agency reported over the weekend.
The Cuban Tourism Ministry said Saturday that 2 million foreign visitors had already arrived so far this year as of late Friday, 39 days earlier than it took in 2014 to reach that same figure, the news agency reported, noting that this means a 16 percent growth.
In 2014, Cuba received over 3 million tourists for the first time in history. This number seems easy to be surpassed in 2015.
The forecasts for the remainder of 2015 are very good, Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said.
Tourism was booming, as was business travel to Cuba in anticipation of greater trade with the United States, Europe and other countries, Marrero added.
Canada has long been the main source of Cuba's foreign tourists, but more Americans are expected to come as the U.S. government eases travel restrictions.
A number of U.S. airlines such as Delta, United and JetBlue have expressed their interest in opening commercial flights to the island as soon as it is legally permitted.
Industry experts say the island could see between 3 and 3.5 million American tourists a year, but the sector must first expand its hotel infrastructure, on which the Ministry of Tourism is already working.
In anticipation of the country's opening up to the US market, foreign investment in Cuba's tourism industry is also on the rise, notably from China.
Earlier this month, Chinese automaker BYD signed a deal with Cuba to provide a fleet of 719 vehicles to serve as rental cars in tourism.
In May, China's Beijing Enterprises Group Co. Ltd. announced its intention to build a golf resort in Bello Monte, a budding vacation destination taking shape on Cuba's northern coast, between the capital Havana and the already famous beach resort of Varadero.