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TTC Special: Cuba and Canada, the main source of tourists of the island, strengthen relationships

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By Francisco Forteza Martin

The visit last week of the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Cuba must expand the island’s commercial ties with Canada, the Cuban main tourist market in the world.

Trudeau visited Cuba in order to “renew and strengthen” the bilateral relationship and collaborate more closely on its sustainable economic growth.

For decades the brutal Canadian winter has driven millions of Canadians to warmer Caribbean climes, specially to Cuba, during the December to April period. Canada has been the largest single Cuban source of tourists consistently from 1990 to 2015 and accounted for almost 40% of all tourist arrivals in the island in 2015.

According to statistics, approximately one third of visitors to Cuba each year are Canadians. In 2015 1,300,092 Canadian tourists traveled to Cuba, a 3.6 percent of the total Canadian population.

“All-inclusive” packages for less than CAN$1000 promise flights, a hotel, drinks, and royal treatment for Canadians escaping the frozen northern tundra for the Caribbean sun and sand “a la Cubana”, a Canadian paper said recently.

The Trudeau visits was the first official visit to the island by a Canadian prime minister in almost two decades and the first step for the northern country to boost Canadian trade, investment and engagement in the Latin American region.

Canada was the only country in the Americas, along with Mexico, to have maintained diplomatic ties with Havana after the 1959 revolution despite significant pressure from Washington over the years.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau became in 1976 the first leader of a NATO country to break with allies and meet with Fidel Castro during the “Cold War,” against Washington’s expressed wishes.

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