Cuba breaks tourist arrival record

HAVANA, Cuba, December 30, 2008 – Cuba has broken its tourist arrival figures, welcoming close to 2.35 million visitors to the island this year.

Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said that 2008 will close with a 9.3 per cent increase over arrivals for 2007.

The Cuban News Agency quoted Mr Marrero as saying that the record breaking performance was recorded despite booking cancellations, the closure of 6,000 hotel rooms and the damage to 1,000 more as a result of storms which hit Cuba during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

He projected a nine per cent growth in visitor arrivals from Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain and also predicted that overall tourist income will grow by more than 8.8 per cent.

Mr Marrero, however, pointed to some problems affecting development in the sector, including the high cost of imports and the insufficient supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

He said a plan of action will be developed and put in place to deal with these challenges.

The Tourism Minister said other initiatives like the repair of hotel facilities and the implementation of a campaign to promote Cuba as tourist destination will also be implemented in order to give the island a bigger share of the market.