Cuba looks to further bolster vital tourism sector
Varadero, Cuba, May 9 (EFE).- Cash-strapped Cuba is looking to further
boost its long-vital tourism sector, the crown jewel of which is this
famed resort town located 138 kilometers (85 miles) east of Havana.
A billboard along the palm tree-lined road leading to this peninsula of
white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, which receives 44 percent of
the tourists who travel to the communist-ruled island, expresses its
economic importance: “Everything raised here goes to the people.”
Varadero caters to international tourists with its dozens of luxury
hotels, which are state-owned but managed in joint-venture partnerships
by international groups, most of which are Spanish.
Cuba’s tourism sector welcomed 2.8 million foreign visitors in 2012 –
4.5 percent more than the previous year – and expects that number to
increase to 3 million in 2013.
Tourism revenues are crucial for Cuba and strengthening the sector is a
priority of the island’s authorities, who have expanded the scope for
private initiative and made it easier for visitors to obtain a visa.
Cuba also wants to diversify its tourist offering “in accordance with
the times we’re living in,” Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said during
this week’s 33rd International Tourism Fair in Varadero.
That effort has included a project to renovate the heart of Havana’s
The memory of Ernest Hemingway lives on in the now-restored Ambos Mundos
hotel, where the American author wrote some of his most enduring works
in the 1930s. That establishment is also located near the La Bodeguita
del Medio and Floridita bars that Hemingway frequented.
Sloppy Joe’s Bar, one of Havana’s most popular drinking spots in the
1920s, also has been restored to its original decor and ambience.
Privately owned restaurants, known locally as paladars, also are in vogue.
Tourists especially flock to the elegant La Guarida, which was a set for
the hit 1994 film “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate) and is
located in an old, unrestored building that retains the dilapidated look
it had at the turn of the 20th century.