Venezuela is currently the source of the largest number of tourists to Cuba in the Latin American and Caribbean region, with an increase of close to 60% in 2015, according to Pablo Vázquez, representative of the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) for this South American nation, Colombia and Central America.
This places the country ninth place in the world in terms of the number of tourists to the island, he noted.
The official offered details regarding Mintur strategies to attract a greater number of visitors to Cuba, especially from Central America, a natural market for the island.
He highlighted the exchanges that took place as part of the recent International Tourism Fair held in Panama, with tour operators, travel agencies and the specialized media, in which the diversity of products and valuable sites the island has to offer were presented.
He explained that the main attractions of the country include the high levels of public safety, the over 300 natural beaches, a varied ecosystem and high level of biodiversity, in addition to the 10 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites, as well as the hospitality of its people.
He described some of the key features of these internationally recognized sites, including cities that were founded 500 years ago, such as Baracoa, Bayamo, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba in eastern Cuba; and Trinidad and Sancti Spíritus in the central region of the country.
Vázquez explained that Mintur is seeking to promote historical, cultural, health and nature tourism, to go beyond the beach holiday reputation of the Caribbean nation, given its rich diversity.
The official also alluded to the tourism boom the country is currently experiencing, with a 17% increase in numbers signifying that soon “we will be close to 3 million tourists.”
He added that a development program on the northern coast of the central province of Villa Clara and the eastern province of Holguín is underway, which includes the construction of new hotels, marinas and other infrastructure.
This strategy is reinforced by the over 11,000 private homes that offer lodging in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism and the 53 business projects as part of the foreign investment process in the country, mainly targeting property development, the construction of golf courses and hotel and nautical development in various parts of the island.
THE PANAMANIAN MARKET
Responding to a question from Prensa Latina, Vázquez assured that despite increases in the numbers of tourists from Panama, this market is yet to be fully exploited, given the direct flight connections between the two countries and its strong business sector.
He noted that over 10,000 Panamanians have traveled to Cuba so far this year, representing a 12% increase as compared to 2014.
He added that the recent official visit to the island by President Juan Carlos Varela signaled prospects for economic cooperation and investment, as well as the development of other areas of bilateral relations.
He concluded by noting that Panama could become an important bridge for event tourism, in addition to the complementarity that exists between the Panama Canal and the Mariel Special Development Zone.