In an intelligent combination of opportunities, Cuba’s International Tourism Fair (FITCuba 2017) began this week in the province of Holguín, coinciding with the Romerias de Mayo, a cultural tradition of Holguín’s capital led by young people for more than two decades.
Less than 24 hours after this fiesta started in the city of Holguín, with artists from 26 countries, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero officially inaugurated the 37th edition of the International Tourism Fair in the Playa Pesquero Hotel, on the northern coast of that province.
Addressing the delegations, the press and guests from dozens of countries, Marrero announced the reception in Cuba of two million foreign visitors to date. This figure was attained 39 days before the same period last year. The first four months of 2017 closed this way with a 17 per cent growth and the country spectacularly ended the so-called peak season, from November to April.
The most recent data confirms that the arrival of tourists took off with sufficient force to meet the official plans of growing this year to 4.2 million visitors, after increasing 13 per cent to reach the record of four million in 2016.
The affluence of U.S. travellers, accelerated ever since both countries initiated in December 2014 official talks for the normalisation of relations, is still valid. In 2016, Cuba received 284,937 citizens from that country to the north, a 74 per cent hike compared to the previous year’s data.
Meanwhile, Europeans’ trips have intensified, reported the Tourism Ministry marketing general director, María del Carmen Orellana. Germany, FITCuba 2017’s guest of honour, was confirmed among Cuba’s most important issuing markets, with a 38 per cent growth and 242,000 visitors in 2016, Orellana said in a press conference.
This 37th International Tourism Fair, programmed from May 3 to 6, is being carried out for the first time in eastern Cuba, in one of the tourist hubs with the greatest development. Positioned as Cuba’s fourth destination, it has a network of 26 hotels and 5,440 rooms, while two new hotels are being built in Playa Pesquero and Guardalavaca. This year there are plans to double the investments executed in 2016.
Orellana announced plans for building and renovating hotel and non-hotel installations in the city of Holguín, and in the beaches on the northern coast, including a plan of 19,000 rooms in the peninsula of Ramón, in the municipality of Antilla. This figure increases threefold the current hotel availability in the entire province.
Another point under development on Holguín’s coast, of great attraction for its historic and cultural singularity, is the city of Gibara, officially declared a tourist destination one day before the inauguration of the Fair. Three of the locality’s hotels – Ordoño, Arsenita and Plaza Colón, the latter inaugurated on that same day – passed on to the management of Spain’s Iberostar group, by virtue of a contract signed that day with the Cubanacán Chain.
The inclusion of geographical points that stand out more for their cultural or heritage values, like Gibara and the very city of Holguín, confirm the Cuban strategy of diversifying a tourism that had bet more on the exploitation of the almost virgin beaches on the coasts and the keys, frequently isolated or distant from the urban development centres.
Understood as one of the singularities of the region that most attracts visitors to the Caribbean, and to Cuba in particular, culture has been defended as a value that the leisure industry should take more into account. Diverse studies indicate that more than 70 per cent of the tourists who come to Cuba do so attracted by the sun and beach vacation modality.
The will to bet more on the local cultural heritage also came up with the Romerias de Mayo, coinciding with FITCuba 2017. This fiesta, whose programming enriches the fair’s agenda, began in the city of Holguín less than 24 hours before the tourism mart, with a mega concert by Cuban trova singer Raúl Paz.
The 24th edition of the Romerias, from May 2 to 8, is being attended by musical groups from Colombia, Argentina, Canada and Cuba, singer-songwriters and trova musicians, theatre, dance and humour groups, visual art exhibitions, and poets from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Spain, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Puerto Rico, Togo and Cuba.
With the hope of turning it into a world fiesta of artistic youths, the Hermanos Saíz Association of young Cuban artists and intellectuals rescued a bit more than two decades ago these Holguín festivities, which began in the late 18th century. Holguín and Cuba resort, with this exercise of coincidences, to a natural added value of the Cuban nation that enriches the tourism industry’s offer. (2017)
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