According to the Cuban Tourism Ministry, arrival figures are still rising.
Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told Prensa Latina that the country was operating with access to only half the potential market due to continued restrictions on travel from the United States.
In 2010, around 400,000 US citizens visited, a five-fold increase on 2008. On Friday, 14 January the Obama administration announced that student, church and cultural groups would be able to visit Cuba legally. More US airports than ever will be able to offer charter flights that are connected with cultural schemes.
The rules will be modified to, among other things:
Allow religious organisations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba under a general licence
Allow accredited institutions of higher education to sponsor travel to Cuba
Allow any US person to send remittances (up to $500 per quarter) to non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity
Allow remittances to be sent to religious institutions in Cuba in support of religious activities
Allow US airports to apply to provide services to licensed charters.
The White House added that the economic embargo remained, but said that the travel measures would increase access and information flow.
“[This] will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.”
Cuba’s total foreign arrivals during 2010 were 2.5 million, which was 4.2 per cent better than 2010. According to Cuban Tourism Ministry director, Jose Manuel Bisbe, the destination aims to reach 2.7 million visitors for 2011. Work is ongoing in destinations to improve facilities, he told attendees of the 31st International Tourism Fair currently being held in Madrid.
“We are undertaking important works in the infrastructure that supports tourism in the historical centre of the Cuban capital and in patrimonial cities such as Trinidad, Remedios, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba and Baracao,” he said.