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Point of View: Cuba’s Gaviota Tourism Group Lights Up Canadian Travel Event

Point of View: Cuba's Gaviota Tourism Group Lights Up Canadian Travel Event

Villa Maguana, Baracoa. Photo: TTC

Jim Byers, Published by Travel Pulse Canada

The Gaviota Tourism Group is making constant strides to improve an already great product in Cuba, officials told a travel industry gathering in Toronto.

A bevy of company higher-ups were in Canada’s largest city on Tuesday along with Cuba hotel representatives, familiar Cuban tourism faces and The Consul General of Cuba, Tania Lopez Larroque.

Canada remains a critical market for Cuba, and officials said they were in Toronto on Tuesday and would be in Montreal on Wednesday to show the love to the Canadian travel industry.

Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez, vice president of the Gaviota Tourism Group, said the country has invested a great deal in its tourism industry of late, expanding properties and redesigning hotels “to meet the needs of elite travellers.”

Among the noteworthy developments this year are better and easier access to diverse nature, historical and cultural products, increased Wi-Fi across the country and new transit infrastructure. The country also is celebrating the opening of new hotels, such as the International Melia Varadero Hotel and the Hotel Paseo Del Prado.

Havana is celebrating a remarkable 500th anniversary this year, and officials also are promoting the FITCUBA tourism conference, slated for the island nation’s capital in May.

Gaviota works with agents, who can earn commission when booking Gaviota Tourism Group hotels, officials told TravelPulse Canada.

Gaviota owns more than 90 hotels across the country and also runs restaurants, marinas and other tourism facilities, said Eloy Govea, Director of the Cuba Tourist Board and a fixture on the Canadian travel industry scene. They also run tours in Cuba.

TravelPulse Canada asked Govea for some suggestions for travellers who have been several times and want to see something new, or perhaps even for first-timers who want to get beyond the beach or the swim-up hotel bar.

“There are so many things,” he replied. “Matanza is a beautiful city that’s sometimes called ‘The Athens of Cuba.’ There are poets and musicians, and ballet and visual artists.

“It’s between Varadero and Havana but a lot of people zip past at 100 km an hour and never see it. But it’s a world heritage site that’s like a huge theme park.”

He noted the Cuban flag and the country’s coat of arms both were created in Matanzas, and the city also was the site of the first official raising of the nation’s flag.

Gaviota Tourism Group Cuba

The Gaviota Tourism Group owns more than 90 hotels in Cuba. They also run tours and own restaurants and marinas.

Govea also singled out Baracoa, a city near the eastern tip of Cuba.

Larroque, the consul general, said the area receives a good deal of rainfall but has lovely forests, beautiful mountains close by and the country’s largest river, The River Toa.

Baracoa was spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and was settled in 1511, making it the first Spanish settlement on the island.

They use a good deal of coconuts for oil and cooking, which gives the area a distinctive cuisine, as well as a different climate than other parts of the island.

“The women still wash clothes in the river in Baracoa,” Govea said.

Cayo Cruz, not far from Cayo Coco, also is a growing destination for folks who love great beaches and enjoy fly fishing.

Govea said he doesn’t think Cuba tourism is growing too fast.

“It’s such a huge country, and the Caribbean is such a popular destination. Every time we add new hotels it’s driven up new air routes and new business.

“There’s probably no other country that has such a vibrant cultural scene. We have beaches, theatres, world heritage sites, biological and nature reserves, national park and the most iconic city in the Caribbean.”