Monday, May 31, 2010

Tourism Minister Reviews Travel Industry in Cuba

Cuban Tourism Boosts Development

By Roberto F. Campos *

24 de mayo de 2010, 13:32Por By Roberto F. Campos

(Prensa Latina) Detailed information by Cuban Minister of Tourism, Manuel Marrero, disclosed why the growing spiral of this industry in the Island, despite the hard impact of the global economic crisis.

Cuba's recreational industry is consolidated nowadays, and grows, notwithstanding the world economic and financial crisis, Marrero asserted, upon opening in Havana the XXX International Tourism Fair FITCUBA 2010 (May 3-8), in front of some two thousand participants from 30 countries.

In his report, entitled Tendencies and prospects of tourism development in Cuba destination, he stood out a growing support of the world investment community when May 10 will mark the 20th anniversary since Sol Palmmera Hotel was opened under the management of Spanish group Sol Meliá.

At that time, foreign investment related to this sector started in Cuba and there are already 66 hotels with 27 thousand 909 rooms managed and commercialized by 13 international chains, he said.

Plus, he stated, there are five thousand 500 rooms in operation with international economic associations, while new projects and investments under this modality are getting ready.

The spirals keeps on going up

The minister pointed out that this Island, because of its values, is a place where staying turns into pleasant memories due to the conversion of what is colonial and modern into contrasting nature, excellent beaches and capes, seabeds and syncretic culture.

However, he stressed as one of the main causes for foreigners to spend vacations in Cuba the values of a charismatic and hospitable people.

He said that although Cuba does not have access to 50 percent of the Caribbean tourism market (in reference to the United States), it has registered development in this industry in the last 20 years, and has become one of the most important and dynamic markets in the Americas and the Caribbean itself.

He affirmed that, in 1990, the country held place 23 in the region regarding the number of foreign visitors received; whereas, at present, it appears in the ninth position.

Twenty years ago, 340 thousand foreign tourists arrived in the country, and for the last six years, consecutively, the figure has outdone two million. Moreover, the number of tourists coming from more than 70 countries has reached 29 million in the last two decades.

Canada keeps on being the first sender of travellers to this country with nearly one million people a year, and, concerning the other markets, spain is the only one showing growth.

Argentina shows a significant growing trend, while Colombia, Chile and Peru are growing at a time, though the minister deemed Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico important and still not fully exploited.

He mentioned Cuban émigrés as a segment growing in importance and said that strategies for all these markets are under preparation.

Crisis and Cuban tourism

He stated that tourism's resistance capacity had been tested by economic crisis during 2009 with a global 4,3 percent decrease.

He declared that the most important recepients of tourism moved backwards and just a few countries; Cuba among them, had been able to overcome the trial (the Island increased 3,5 percent).

He avowed that 2010 did not start in full swing, however, a strong recovery in tourism was attained between March and April by this nation, which closed its first four-month period as its all-time best regarding this industry.

He broached the recently new tourism campaign christened Authentic Cuba, aimed at displaying the people in this country just as they are like.

Nowadays, Cuba can make use of 50 thousand rooms for tourism, out of which, 65 percent belong to five-and-four-star facilities, and in the next five years, growth points at about 20 thousand more.

He announced construction of new hotels in Varadero, Cayo Santa María, Cayo Coco, and preparation of some virgin keys in the northern zone of the country.

Construction of four five-star hotels with local capital is making stride in eastern Guardalavaca beach, Cayo Coco, Varadero and colonial Trinidad city, where a 500-room, five-star hotel on Ancón beach, plus other three facilities, are being planned.

The idea of C (cHARM) or heritage Hotels is underway, and this week one of them, named Royalton, will be opening its doors in eastern Bayamo, and this year works on Barcelona, in Remedios, and on Velazco, in Matanzas, will come to an end.

Added to that list is Camino de Hierro hotel, in eastern Camagüey city's historical center, and there is already a project for Ronda hotel, in Trinidad.

He reminded the recent opening of a luxury five-star hotel with 670 rooms, in collaboration with China, in the city of Shanghai, whose counterpart will be built in Marina Hemingway in Havana.

Right now, the Varadero resort's master plan is being updated and the recovery of Old Havana, which will have six new hotels, is making progress. Furthermore, Havana's Malecón will be restored.

He added that Havana Harbour's tourist development, including Mariel seaport, further west, is being drawn up. While an increase of flights and development of important investments in airports such as the one in Varadero and Terminal two in Havana are under study.

In the list of advances, the first stage in the recovery of Zapata Marsh and the Sugar Mill Valley in Trinidad were included.

Regarding the sea, he mentioned the recovery of Colony International Diving Center, in western Isle of Youth, and the perspective of enlarging that in María la Gorda, in Pinar del Río, plus broadening Varadero's Marina and mooring capacities in that of Hemingway.

Prospects also encompass the development of golf, for which studies and negotiations with likely foreign partners are underway.

Celebration of events and their promotion were regarded as in progress with their hub in the capital, where there have been 75 of those meetings this year, either dealing with tourism or other specialties.

Friday, May 28, 2010

AHLA Lobbies for Travel to Cuba

Hotel trade group spends $305,000 lobbying in 1Q

(AP) – 21 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The American Hotel & Lodging Association spent $305,000 in the first quarter lobbying federal officials on travel to Cuba, labor and other issues, according to a recent disclosure report.

That's less than the $350,000 the group spent lobbying both in the same period last year and in 2009's fourth quarter.

The trade group, which represents hotel companies, also lobbied the federal government on family medical leave and health insurance for small businesses in January through March.

The trade group lobbied both houses of Congress and the Departments of Labor, Commerce and Homeland Security, according to a disclosure report it filed April 19 with the House clerk's office.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trip for Travel Professionals

Ethical Traveler Announces Inaugural Trip to Cuba

Educational tour to explore the future of US/Cuba tourism relations and beyond

Publish Date: 2010-05-26

Berkeley, CA, May 26, 2010 -- Ethical Traveler and Global Exchange's Reality Tours have joined forces to create an extraordinary journey: Cuba, Up Close & Personal: Creating a New Relationship in Travel & Beyond. This is Ethical Traveler's first fundraising tour and provides an in-depth exploration of Cuba, with a focus on the country's huge potential for responsible travel and tourism.

The tour dates are from October 2-12, 2010. Participants will meet with grassroots community organizers, and visit ecotourism projects across the island. We will dialogue with cultural leaders, educators and travel professionals, exploring how the future of US/Cuba relations will create new opportunities for the ethical traveler. Participants can also look forward to experiencing some of Cuba's timeless attractions—including Old Havana and Viñales Valley (World Heritage Sites), the Tropicana Nightclub, the white sand beaches of Varadero, and emerging ecotourism resorts in Pinar del Rio and Cayo Coco.

Cuba, Up Close and Personal will be led by Malia Everette, Director of Global Exchange's Reality Tours. Ms Everette has been facilitating educational and customized trips to Cuba for 20 years, and overseeing Reality Tours to Cuba for over 13 years. Jeff Greenwald, Executive Director of Ethical Traveler and accomplished travel writer, will be co-hosting the tour.

Global Exchange is licensed as a travel service provider by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. This delegation is open to all professionals in the tourism field and professions related to the theme of the delegation. The 11-day journey costs $3500 per person on a double-occupancy basis with single supplements available for an additional $475. For more information and bookings, please visit: .

Ethical Journeys is a new collection of small group tours that adhere to the highest environmental, fair trade and human rights standards. All tour profits go to support the work of Ethical Traveler.

Ethical Traveler is an international alliance of travelers who believe that travel is a powerful tool for international goodwill and cultural understanding. The group seeks to harness the political and economic clout of tourism to support human rights and the environment. Ethical Traveler is a project of the Earth Island Institute.

Contact :
Michael McColl
McColl Communications
Berkeley, CA
+1 (510) 451 0267

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cuba approves residential projects linked to resorts, possibly opening door for villas, golf

By Will Weissert, AP
May 4th, 2010

Cuba OKs residential projects linked to resorts

HAVANA — Cuba has approved construction of residential projects linked to resorts, the tourism minister said Tuesday, possibly opening the door for villas that could one day ring oceanfront golf courses and other vacation getaways.

Manuel Marrero said the communist-governed island is on pace for its third straight record year of foreign visitors, and it hopes to continue expanding into the little-tapped golf market.

He said the government has green-lighted “real estate for tourist purposes,” without giving details. But the move may mean Cuba will allow tourist developments that include long-term residences — not just hotels catering to short-term visitors that now line the island’s beaches.

Investment firms in Canada and Europe have proposed building golf courses coupled with luxury housing under long-term leases with Cuba’s government. Endorsing residential zoning for tourism could be a first, albeit small, step toward making those projects a reality.

The decision would allow Cuba’s “entrance into new segments and the realization of investments in areas with tourism potential that have yet to be exploited,” Marrero said.

The island has only one 18-hole golf course and hopes to build 10 more, but has yet to break ground on any projects financed by foreigners.

Cuba has tried before to balance its drive for an egalitarian society with an appeal to foreigners seeking to own a piece of paradise. Scrambling for revenue in the late 1990s, the government authorized private foreign ownership of posh apartments in Havana and even signed a $250 million deal for beachfront apartments and timeshares with a Canadian company.

Many of those project stalled, however, failing to draw enough foreign investment. Meanwhile, some overseas businessmen bought Havana apartments but allowed Cuban girlfriends to live in them — violating rules barring islanders from doing so, said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser at the U.S.-Cuba Economic Trade Council in New York.

Cuba eventually bought out most of the residences it had hoped would be owned by foreigners.

Kavulich said Marrero’s announcement “is not new, it’s renewed.”

“Part of the caution would be we’ve seen this before,” he said. “They’re bringing it back, that’s a good thing, but we need to see what happens.”

Addressing a tourism fair at Morro Castle, a Spanish fort built in 1859 that guards the sea entrance to Havana, Marrero also said Cuba may exceed 2.5 million foreign visitors in 2010.

More than 1.05 million foreigners had come as of the end of April, the most-successful four-month span since Cuba began promoting large-scale tourism after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its billions in annual subsidies to the island.

“It’s been surprising because we began with January and February really bad — bad because of the financial crisis, because of many factors,” Marrero told reporters after his presentation. “But March and April have been very good.”

In 2009, Cuban tourism rose 3.5 percent, with more than 2.4 million tourists coming, mostly from Europe and Canada, despite the global recession. But many visitors stayed fewer days than usual, and tour operators offered steep discounts to keep them coming, meaning revenues slumped nearly 12 percent.

While the U.S. government doesn’t permit most of its citizens to travel to Cuba, the Obama administration has eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting relatives here. But those who come for family travel are counted as Cubans, not foreign visitors.

Marrero said 50 percent more Cuban-Americans visited early this year than during the same period last year, but offered no statistics.

He said Cuba has 50,000 hotel rooms nationwide, many in establishments jointly operated by the government and private companies in Europe.