A group of U.S. visitors on a bike tour of Havana. Photo: Reuters

The number of U.S. travelers visiting Cuba tripled in 2017, as compared to 2016, announced Josefina Vidal, General Director for US Affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
In a Twitter post, Vidal noted that 2017 saw the arrival of 1,173,428 U.S. travelers to the island, an increase of 191% as compared to the year before, when the country received 619,523 visitors from that nation.
Of the over one million visitors who traveled to Cuba last year from the U.S. 619,523 were citizens, representing an increase of 217%, while the remaining 453,905 were Cubans resident in the country - up 137.8% from 2016, reported the diplomat.
This rise in arrivals has occurred despite restrictions include in the U.S. blockade of Cuba by on citizens’ right to travel to the island.
The reestablishment of diplomatic relations in July 2015 marked the onset of an increase in U.S. citizens traveling to the island, which received a record 4.7 million international visitors last year.
However, relations have suffered various setbacks, starting mid-last year with U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in June of a change to Cuba policy, marked by a tightening of the blockade and increased restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to the island.
This was followed by the withdrawal of almost all diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Havana after some officials allegedly suffered health problems which the western press and Washington baselessly decided to dub “sonic attacks.” The Cuban government has vehemently denied any involvement and question the veracity of the existence of an attack, launching a full scale investigation into the case which failed to find any evidence supporting the allegations. Meanwhile, the FBI were also unable to find any evidence of the supposed attacks, according to a January 8 article by AP. Nevertheless, under this pretext Washington issued a travel warning for its citizens advising them not to visit the island, and approved new restrictions on individual visits in November.

(With information from Xinhua & Cubadebate)