Growth in Cuban tourism

By | Category: Travel destinations

Cuba – many people still see it only as a beach destination

Recently Cuba held its annual tourism fair – FITCUBA 2017 – the first since the death of Fidel Castro so whilst the Ministry of Tourism of Cuba highlighted how tourism is developing there were many memories of the role Castro had played in the development of Cuba.

Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Cuban Tourism Minister, stated that the country was well ahead of the forecast made for 2016 with a 17% increase in the number of tourists. About four million tourists arrived in Cuba in 2016and two million tourists have already arrived in the island this year suggesting that 2017 will b e a bumper year.

There has been a 25% growth in British tourists so that in 2016, 182,000 tourists arrived from UK , a substantial increase from 155,802 in 2the previous year. So important have British tourists become that next year, at FITCUBA 2018, the UK will be the guest of honour.

Cuba is a well-known destination for sun and beach and there has always been a broad focus on nature and adventure by the tourist board. It is an archipelago with an overall length of 1,250 kilometres but only 191kilometres wide. What it does have in this smallish area is 5,746 kilometres of coastline and a large number of bays, keys, small islands and beaches.


But this year, the emphasis will not on the beaches, watersports and the coastline. This concentration will be on the culture, tradition and the lesser known regions and unknown attractions in the island so expect to see a different approach taken by your local travel agent.

In particular the tourist board wants to highlight the small town of Gibara in the Holguin province. Gibara was reborn on the anniversary of its foundation, 200 years ago and has been restored in a similar fashion to that of the Cuban town of Trinidad. It has kept its original architecture, cultural identity and authenticity. The aim has been to restore the town’s colonial buildings and plazas to gain recognition as an attractive tourist attraction whilst encouraging international investors like the Spanish hotelier, Iberostar, to enter the hospitality sector in Gibara and manage three hotels in the city: Plaza Colon, Ordono and Arsenita.

That alone is an indication of how open the Cuban tourism market has become over the last few years. Since I made my first visit in 2015, the streets look cleaner and more colonial buildings have been refurbished. I could see more private restaurants as well as a major luxury shopping mall in the Paseo de Martí area of Havana.

Getting there:

Reza flew to Cuba as a guest of the Cuban Ministry of Tourism on a Virgin Atlantic flight to Havana. There are no direct flights to Holguin from UK. There are several airlines running direct or indirect regular flights to Havana from Gatwick. From London Victoria, both Gatwick Express and Southern have services to Gatwick but Southern is cheaper and the journey time is only a little longer. Heathrow is served by the tube (Piccadilly line) and Heathrow Express.

For more about Cuba, click here.

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirinia


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