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.

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