Cuba gets ready for 2.5 million tourists in 2005

Campaign News | Friday, 4 February 2005

Island aims to keep industry growing

Madrid Feb. 3 - After cracking the two-million-tourist plateau in 2004, the island nation of Cuba is hoping to reach a new milestone this time around: 2.5 million visitors to the country?s sun-and-sand destinations who are also lured by an array of choices ranging from culture and nature to health and nautical sports, Cuba?s Tourism Deputy Minister Oscar Gonzalez said in Madrid this week.

Mr. Gonzalez, who attended FITUR 2005 in the Spanish capital, noted Cuba?s travel industry has leapfrogged ahead of the rest of the Americas over the past twelve years, jumping from the 23rd spot among the most sought-after travel destinations in the Western Hemisphere in 1990 to the eighth notch in 2004.

Mr. Gonzalez indicated that 20 million tourists will visit the Caribbean in the course of ongoing year, with Cuba grabbing 2.5 million of the total for a blistering 12 percent growth.

In 1990, Cuba came in for a meager 340,000 foreign visitors, a figure that shot up to 2,048,578 vacationers last year, snaring 11 percent of the total amount of Caribbean-bound travelers.

Cuban tourism authorities estimate the island nation could net 3 to 4 million foreign visitors by 2010, regardless of tough world conditions and the irrational U.S. travel ban that violates the rights of American citizens to visit Cuba without any restrictions.

Canada goes on to be Cuba?s foremost sending market with half a million travelers and a walloping 24 percent growth every year, followed by Italian and British sunbathers with 1 and 33 percent hikes, respectively.

The Spanish market, for its part, inched up 14.5 percent for a grand total of 146,236 visitors in 2004.

Cuba?s stock of 41,200 rooms and 278 hotels has ramped up 9 percent, with seven out of ten lodgings labeled as four-star and five-star establishments.

Mr. Gonzalez explained Cuba has one out of six Caribbean hotel rooms in a region that provides a quarter of a million accommodations.

The fastest-growing destinations are Camaguey, the northern keys, Santiago de Cuba, southeastern Cuba, the central coast of Cienfuegos and Trinidad, Havana, Varadero, Cayo Largo del Sur and Jardines del Rey.

Mr. Gonzalez also said the island nation has seventeen training schools and centers for industry professionals that offer higher education degrees in travel and tourism. Thanks to that effort, a fifth of Cuban tourism employees are now college graduates.

Last but not least, Cuba?s hospitality sector has created 200,000 new jobs and the industry comprises nearly a tenth of the country?s total workforce.

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