HAVANA, Cuba, Monday October 26, 2015 – Cuba’s tourist arrivals for the first nine months of this year skyrocketed to 2.62 million, up by 18 per cent, or some 400,000 visitors, from the same period in 2014, which was itself a record-breaking year.
The communist Caribbean island exceeded 3 million tourists for the first time in 2014, welcoming 3,002,745 visitors.
According to the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI), the island reached the 2.6 million tourist arrivals mark as of September 30, two months earlier than it attained the same number in 2014.
In September alone, traditionally one of the slowest months for tourist arrivals in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean, the island welcomed nearly 200,000 visitors, a figure that was up an enviable 27.4 percent from the same period last year.
Not surprisingly, Cuban officials expect to break the 2014 arrivals record this year, as well as exceed the US$2.7 billion revenue mark.
Heading the arrivals list was Canada, the undisputed top source of visitors, with more than 1 million, according to the ONEI.
Canada was followed by Germany, Britain, France, Spain and Mexico, while Costa Rica, Haiti, Japan, Israel, Ireland, Poland, Australia and Venezuela posted strong gains, the ONEI reported.
The tourism boom coincides with the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States on July 20 after more than half a century of cold war hostilities.
In the first seven months after President Obama eased travel restrictions, about 88,900 Americans arrived in Cuba, a figure that was up by a whopping 54 percent from 2014 and is predicted to grow further by the end of this year.
To meet the growing demand for accommodation in Havana and elsewhere, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told the press that the government has implemented a plan to build several new hotels and renovate existing properties.
The official Agencia Prensa Latina reported that the plan calls for adding more than 13,600 rooms in “sun and beach destinations” next year.
— TravelPulse (@TravelPulse) October 23, 2015
At present, tourism is the second-largest source of income for the island, trailing only professional services and generating US$1.7 billion in revenues in the first half of this year.