Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Cuba welcomed more than 1.1 million Canadian visitors in 2017, marking the seventh year in a row that Cuba has topped the 1 million mark from Canada, says the Cuba Tourist Board.
Last year was Cuba’s most successful year to date, with 4.7 million foreign visitors arriving on the island in 2017, a 16.2% increase year over year.
The Cuba Tourist Board says it’s “delighted” to share the news and confirms that Canadian visitors remain Cuba’s top priority. Cuba receives more visitors from Canada than from any other country.
Some 44% of Canadian travellers heading to Cuba in 2017 were return visitors.
The tourism board reminds agents that there are more direct flights from Canada to Cuba now than ever.
“Peace, health and safety remain the pillars of Cuban tourism and, ultimately, the factors that explain our incredible growth,” says Eloy Govea, Director for Canada for the Cuba Tourism Board. “The unique environment allows everyone to thoroughly experience the Auténtica Cuba: our spectacular beaches, incredible people, vibrant culture, fascinating history and unspoiled nature; all of which is particularly accessible and affordable for Canadians.”
The island is also seeing more cruise ships. Participating cruise lines docking at many of Cuba’s port cities in 2017 included MSC, Norwegian, Carnival, Fred Olsen, Holland America, Azamara, Oceania, Viking and Royal Caribbean. The number of visitors taking part in excursions also significantly increased.
As for future hotel projects, the Cuban government aims to have 224 new hotels complete by 2030. These new hotel projects will add 103,000 new rooms, pushing the number of hotel rooms from the current 68,000 to 171,000 hotel rooms in the next 12 years.
These new resort developments will occur in virtually all regions of Cuba including the main tourists spots such as Varadero and Havana, says the tourism board.
From a successful 2017 and a growth rate of 16.%, it’s likely that Cuba will meet its 2018 goal of welcoming five million foreign visitors to experience Cuba, says Govea.