Cuba targets northern keys for aggressive tourism growth
The northern keys of Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camagüey — site of Cuba’s 32nd annual International Tourism Fair (FIT 2012) will soon add 5,507 rooms in four- and five-star hotels.
As impressive as this sounds, it’s just the start of of an ambitious development plan that will include more than 45,800 hotel rooms throughout the northern coast by 2030.
So said Tourism Minister Manuel Morrero, who told global tourism executives May 10 that 1.73 million visitors arrived in Cuba between December 2011 to April 2011, marking a record for Cuba’s high season.
Of that total, 1.24 million were foreign tourists, representing a 5.2% increase over the same period a year earlier.
The fastest-growing source of tourism was Argentina, which sent more than 100,000 tourists, up from 70,000 the year before. Russia, Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and the Netherlands also showed increases, as did traditional source markets such as Canada (up 6%) and France (up 9.6%).
Only the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain saw a decline in the number of travelers to Cuba — a likely consequence of economic difficulties in those countries, said Marrero.
During 2011, he told the 900 tour operators, travel agents and other industry executives from 39 countries in attendance, Cuba opened five new hotels with 1,537 rooms, while 6,639 rooms underwent major repairs.
MAJOR AIRPORT INVESTMENTS UNDERWAY
The island now has 58,626 rooms of which 63% are in four- and five-star hotels. Of the total, 71% are dedicated to sun-and-beach tourism, 23% to city tourism and 2% to ecotourism.
The state now has 30 JVs operating 6,000 rooms, not including 62 management and sales contracts with 13 international chains that manage 47.4% of the island’s hotel rooms.
The military’s Gaviota hotel wing owns the largest piece of the state tourism industry, with 30.7% of the total.
According to official figures, 5,027 rooms are being rented privately, though unofficial estimates suggest the number is closer to 15,000. The island also has 1,618 paladares or private restaurants.
The Cuban government is currently making major investments to modernize and expand airport services at José Martí (Havana), Juan Gualberto Gómez (Varadero) and Abel Santamaría (Santa Clara).
According to European experts, the current expansion taking place in Cayos de Villa Clara and Jardines del Rey (north of Ciego de Avila and Camagüey) are aimed at a soon-to-be massive flow of U.S. tourists.
A recent study by IMF expert Rafael Romeu indicates that “if restrictions on travel were removed, perhaps 3.5 to 5 million U.S. residents would visit Cuba annually.”
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