Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tourism up in Cuba says government

The number of visitors traveling to Cuba in the first six months of 2011 has exceeded government expectations according to officials on the island.

The National Statistics Office (NSE) revealed that over 1.5 tourists came to Cuba between January and June, which accounts for a 10.6% increase compared to the same period in 2010. Most of the visitors come from Canada, based on the official figures, followed by Russia, Argentina, and Britain.

The data reflects the gradual increase in tourism to Cuba over the past two decades; roughly 2.5 million visitors traveled to the island last year compared to only 340,000 visitors in 1990. Hence, tourism has emerged as one of the country’s main industries bringing in billions of dollars annually to the Cuban economy.

Prospective visitors from the U.S. face tight travel restrictions as part of the almost fifty-year-long embargo on trade and finance against Cuba. An amendment to an appropriations bill that may be signed into law could place additional limitations on travelers including Cuban-Americans. Yet the NSE claimed that the U.S. is in eighth place in terms of tourist flow.

Despite the limits on tourism, there is “plenty of demand” for some of types of legalized travel from the U.S. to Cuba:
Travel providers and other groups are scrambling to secure licenses and organize people-to-people exchanges in Cuba after a decision by the U.S. government to relax restrictions and allow a wider variety of Americans to visit the Caribbean island for the first time in 7 1/2 years.

So far, the Treasury Department has issued nearly 30 licenses to organizations that say they will provide “purposeful travel,’’ which will allow Americans to reach out to everyday Cubans in “support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future.’’
Image - AP via Los Angeles Times ("A police officer walks past a double-decker tourist bus in Havana, Cuba.")
Online Sources- Fox News Latino,, Miami Herald

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