Cuba reports more tourism, less revenue
More foreigners visited Cuba this year than last year, the government
reported, but they stayed less time and spent less money.
HAVANA -- (AP) -- 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,
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.
Marrero 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
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.
The weekend before Christmas there were at least 18 flights from the
U.S. to Cuba on a single day.
Previously, Cuban exiles could come only once every three years.
Washington's nearly half-century-old trade embargo keeps most other
Americans from visiting altogether.
A top Cuban government official, speaking anonymously because he was not
authorized to have his name appear in print, said 200,000 Cuban
Americans are expected to visit by the end of 2009, about double last
Marrero said that Canada remains the top source of visitors, with more
than 900,000 coming from that country this year, followed by Great
Britain and Spain.
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