CUBA recorded 770,000 visitors during the first quarter of 2003; a record total representing a 19% increase on the same period last year, reported Radio Rebelde.
Tourism authorities brought these statistics to light during the 23rd International Tourism Convention, which began on Monday at the Varadero beach resort, one of the country’s main tourist areas, situated 150 kilometers east of Havana.
This year’s figure represents an increase of 2% in comparison to the early months of 2001, the best period the island experienced since tourism dramatically dived in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
At the Varadero meeting, attended by some 2,000 tour operators, 900 of which have come from 60 different countries including the United States, the committee organizer commented that the numbers “demonstrate the importance of a peaceful, healthy and safe tourism.”
According to those representing the so-called leisure industry, Cuba represents the most attractive market for the United States, but the laws of the embargo prohibit U.S. citizens from visiting the island without a special permit from Washington.
Nevertheless, official statistics indicate “a rise in the numbers of U.S. tourists in Cuba via third countries,” currently calculated at more than 100,000 annually.
Mexico constitutes the second largest source of tourists for the island, with 98,000 travelers in 2001, and some 82,000 in 2002. (DPA)