Array ( [0] => cuba [1] => development [2] => tourism [3] => global_europe [4] => development_policy )

Cuba hits 2.6 million tourist arrivals two months earlier than in 2014

The Varadero beach [Wikimedia]

Tourist arrivals in Cuba totalled more than 2.6 million as of 30 September, with the island hitting the figure two months earlier than in 2014, the National Statistics and Information Office, or ONEI, said.

Tourist arrivals were by some 400,000, or 18%, from the same period in 2014. Canada was the top source of visitors, with more than 1 million, the ONEI said.

In September alone, historically one of the slowest months for arrivals, the island welcomed nearly 200,000 tourists, a figure that was up 27.4% from the same month last year.

Germany, Britain, France, Spain and Mexico were the other top sources of visitors, while Haiti, Costa Rica, Japan, Israel, Ireland, Poland, Australia and Venezuela posted strong gains, the ONEI said.

The government has implemented a plan to build several hotels and renovate existing properties to meet growing demand for lodging in Havana and other cities, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told the press.

The plan calls for adding more than 13,600 rooms in “sun and beach destinations” in 2016, the official Agencia Prensa Latina reported.

The tourism boom coincides with the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States on 20 July after more than a half century of hostilities.

In the first seven months after President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions, about 88,900 Americans arrived in Cuba, a figure that was up 54% from 2014 and is expected to grow further by the end of the year.

Tourism is the second-largest source of income for the island, trailing only professional services and generating $1.7 billion in revenues in the first half of 2015.

Cuba exceeded 3 million tourists for the first time in 2014, welcoming 3,002,745 visitors.

Officials expect to break the 2014 arrivals record this year, as well as the $2.7 billion revenue mark.

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