Caribbean Destination Guide: Cuba

Caribbean Destination Guide: Cuba

After decades of political instability, economic hardship and US embargoes, Cuba’s tourism industry is back in the ascendancy. In the build up to Caribbean Marketplace, BTN takes a look at the island many believe possesses the greatest tourism potential.

Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, and many believe that it has the one with the most tourism potential.

After decades of political instability, economic hardship and US embargoes, Cuba’s tourism industry is back in the ascendancy.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba main trading partner, the Castro regime has fast-tracked tourism as the best way of generating foreign currency.

(Havana Rumba! typify Cuba’s glorious musical heritage)

A Ministry of Tourism was created in 1994, and between 1990 and 2000 more than $3.5 billion was invested in the tourist industry. The number of rooms available to international tourists grew from 12,000 to 35,000, and the country received a total of 10 million visitors over that period.

New golf courses and marinas are being built in a bid to make summer holidays to the Caribbean island more attractive to big-spending foreigners.

Figures from the state tourism ministry in Havana report of a four percent rise in the number of international tourist arrivals in Cuba in 2010. Some 2.7 million tourists are expected this year, many of whom will be taking package holidays to Cuba.

Furthermore, officials are expecting this momentum to continue this year and beyond. Some 2.7 million tourists are expected in 2011, many of whom will be taking package holidays to Cuba.

(Cuba is home to some 200 powder-white beaches)

Cruise has been earmarked as one of the key growth markets. The state-run news agency Prensa Latina reports that the tourism ministry is particularly keen to encourage tour operators to start docking in the country’s ports, with this seen as a potentially-lucrative source of income for the years ahead.

Tourism highlights

Locked in a time warp since the 1950s, Havana, with its colonial architecture and ostentatious cars, is the biggest city in the Caribbean. A hub of vibrant nightlife, its thriving music scene is home to the legendary Buena Vista Social Club musicians and Benny Moré.

Beyond the capital lies an island dominated by farmland – coffee, sugarcane and tobacco are grown and cattle grazed.

(The town of Trinidad in the province of Sancti Spíritus is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The island is also packed with exciting towns and cities, each with their own unique attractions, including Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is like a museum of Cuban history.

Cuba is also blessed with almost 600km of gloriously powdery beaches, including Varadero Beach, the Eastern Havana Beaches (Playas del Este) or the unexplored keys (Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo).

Most of the 200 beaches are outfitted with quality hotel and nautical facilities, plus an assortment of development plans in place for broader recreational choices.

The finest is Sandals Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa, voted “Cuba’s Leading Resort” at the 2010 World Travel Awards.

(Sandals brings its award-winning All-Inclusive concept to Cuba with the Royal Hicacos Resort & Spa)

Communication is key

With the rise in the number of tourists to Cuba, City Mobi has launched its new guide to the capital.

Havana.Mobi is the latest in this illustrious line up of city guides, with over 800 cities in 200 countries listed. Each is developed by the World Mobi team to combine into a single global travel directory.

The guide offers click to call functionality – which means no scribbling down telephone numbers.

Most entries are also linked to websites where users can quickly access more detailed information if needed.

Other key features include information on accommodation, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, nightlife, shopping, and transport.

City.Mobi guides include user reviews and traveller utilities such as a translation guide, currency converter, news and local weather guide.

Caribbean Marketplace, 16-18 January 2011, Montego Bay Convention Centre, Montego Bay, Jamaica