Cuba says more than 2.4 million tourists will come to the sun-kissed island by the end of the year, up 3.3 percent from 2008’s record, though deep discounts and shorter stays mean vacation industry revenues are down overall.
The country will break the previous year’s mark of 2.34 million visitors by nearly 80,000, fueled by 2,000 new hotel rooms in top tourist areas, including Havana and Varadero, a white-sand beach north of the capital, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said in Thursday editions of the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
He did not say how much Cuban tourism took in and, unlike in previous years, no information on vacation industry revenue was made public during the year-end meeting of Cuba’s parliament Sunday.
Marrero said in November that his ministry’s revenues would fall about 11.7 percent, as Cuba has been forced to slash prices because of the global recession.
Foreign visitors generated more than $2.7 billion last year, a 13.5 percent increase from 2007.
The number of travelers to Cuba has also been boosted by the Obama administration’s decision to let Cuban-Americans with family on the island visit as often as they like.
It is difficult to measure the change’s precise impact, however, since many are counted by immigration authorities as Cubans — not foreign visitors — when they visit their homeland.
But companies that operate charter flights say bookings are up 30 percent since the White House eased restrictions.