HAVANA – Cruise ship tourism has brought some 20,000 visitors to Cuba so far this year, official media said Monday.
Executives from cruise companies have been increasingly interested in talking to Cuban tourism officials, University of Havana professor Jose Luis Perello said in comments cited by the government Web site Cubadebate.
Among the companies taking a new look at Cuba are Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation, NCL, Harmark, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruceros, Pearl Seas Cruises and United Caribbean Lines.
Comparative data from state-owned Aries Transportes S.A. indicate that Cuban port calls by cruise ships increased sixfold between 2012 and 2014, with more than 35,000 passengers coming ashore last year.
The Havana Cruise Ship Terminal is considered by experts as one of the best in terms of structure and functionality and its proximity closeness to Jose Marti International Airport, the media said.
Data recently released by the Cruise Lines International Association show that Caribbean countries have become main destinations for cruise travelers from North America, accounting for 59.9 million days of travel in 2014, an increase of 16 percent over the previous year and of almost 55 percent in a decade.
Cuba ranks second in the Caribbean, after the Dominican Republic, and the island’s attractiveness has increased in recent months since Havana and Washington restored diplomatic relations on July 20.
President Barack Obama eased restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba and some 88,900 Americans visited the island in the first seven months of the year, a 54 percent increase over 2014.
Tourist arrivals in Cuba during the first nine months of this year totaled 2.62 million, up by some 400,000, or 18 percent, from the same period in 2014, the National Statistics and Information Office said last weekend.
Tourism is the second-largest source of income for the island, trailing only professional services and generating $1.7 billion in revenues in the first half of 2015.
Cuba exceeded 3 million tourists for the first time in 2014, welcoming 3,002,745 visitors.
Officials expect to break the 2014 arrivals record this year, as well as the $2.7 billion revenue mark.