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Published on : Wednesday, May 13, 2015
As relations with the United States improve, Cuba is on the verge of a major influx of tourists, and it is not hard to see why. The number of US visitors, 600,000 annually, a figure that includes many Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, is expected to escalate. The number of non-US tourists could also double over the same period.
However, the number of tourists from Europe has also been increasing, fuelled in part by a sense of urgency among some European and Canadian tourists to try and experience Cuba “before the Americans arrive,” according to the BBC.
“The ships are ready to go,” said Robert Muse, a Washington-based lawyer who represented Baja Ferries and specializes in Cuba embargo matters.
In the words of the BBC’s Will Grant: “Cuba boasts something unique in the international tourism market: that intangible stamp of ‘authenticity’ which so many visitors demand.”
The Cuban government says it has prepared for a surge in tourist arrivals with an airport expansion plan and new luxury hotels under construction in Havana and popular beach resorts like Varadero. But according to tour operators, it is already getting difficult to find available hotel rooms or reserve tables at popular restaurants, especially during the high season.
Apart from the sun, sea, scenery and historic attractions the island shares with so many of its Caribbean neighbors, Cuba boasts everything from its legendary cigars to classic 1950s cars rumbling through the streets of one of the last bastions of communism in the world.
And while Washington’s travel ban on US citizens visiting the island is still officially in place, it carries little weight with many potential US tourists.
Charter flights to Havana from New York and New Orleans have begun, commercial ferry services have been authorized from Florida, and companies like MasterCard and AirBnB have announced plans to operate on the island.