HAVANA – Cuba has welcomed 1 million foreign tourists to date in 2016, a 14.6 percent surge over the same period last year, the Tourism Ministry, or Mintur, reported.
The year in course has been characterized by “continuous growth” in the number of tourists to Cuba from such markets as Germany, Britain, the United States, France, Italy and Argentina, a Mintur statement broadcast on state television said.
The note also indicated that Cuban tourism companies plan to raise the quality of their services and increase hotel capacity in order to deal with the expected volume of international visitors.
Cuban tourism authorities estimate that in 2016 some 3.7 million foreign tourists will visit the Caribbean nation, 175,200 more than in 2015, when the country broke the previous record by receiving 3.5 million travelers.
They also predict that this year accommodations in state hotel facilities will exceed by 12.3 percent the amount recorded in 2015.
The situation created after Dec. 17, 2014, when diplomatic ties were reestablished between Cuba and the United States, boosted visits to the island and sparked a “tourist boom” over the past year, authorities in the sector have acknowledged.
Local economists note that some 145,000 Americans visited Cuba in 2015, 79 percent more than in the previous year, under the 12 general licenses approved by the government of President Barack Obama, which under the existing embargo permit U.S. citizens to travel to the island for a variety of reasons but not yet as tourists.
The leisure industry is now considered the most dynamic sector of the Cuban economy and the second-strongest for earning foreign currency, with revenues of $1.94 billion in 2015, up 10.7 percent over the previous year, the island’s National Statistics and Information Office, or ONEI, reported.