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TTC Special: The tourism industry is at the top of Cuba’s economy

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TTC Service.- Despite the Cuban discretion about such qualification, the tourism industry is already the queen of the Cuban economy, and its throne strength increasingly.

“Tourism has boosted the island’s economy during the recent decades”, said to the local media last week in Havana Alexander Sierra, the Development Director of the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.

There are many reasons for such official recognition. First of all, nowadays the Cuban tourism industry earns $3 billion in annual revenues from 3.5 million visitors.  The plans goes for a tripling of the number of hotel rooms over 15 years, building capacity for up to 10 million tourists and annual revenues of over $9 billion.

Such statistics are not peanuts for a small island with a population of 11 million in inhabitants. The American TripAdvisor seems to think the same.  This company, one of the world’s largest travel websites, announced that soon will be able to book accommodations to Cuba.

With a license, granted by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (O.F.A.C.), TripAdvisor will book travel to Cuba for both United States and non-United States citizens, including to hotels, flights, cultural tours and short-term rentals, the company said.

TripAdvisor expects to begin travel-related sales to Cuba within the next few months. According to Stephen Kaufer, its president and chief executive, Tripadvisor “looks forward to helping travelers all over the world discover Cuba’s vibrant history, people and culture as we begin the important work to make these trips possible”.  The license granted to TripAdvisor is similar to the ones granted earlier in the year to other companies like Starwood for hotels, JetBlue and several other airlines for flights, and Airbnb for vacation rentals in 2015.

Washington still applies an embargo on Cuba that prohibits American tourists trips to Cuba, but allows those if are members of any of 12 “interest” groups on various topics, as religious, cultural, musical and sports among others

Last month, Spanish experts in real estate administration and managing vacation rentals visit Havana to provide advice on tourism.

The experts took part in the inauguration of the “Seminar on Real Estate Administration in Spain and Cuba” at the University of Havana Law School. One of them said that the challenges for the Caribbean country include finding new ways to make properties pay and the widespread need for building restoration.

Another fact that proves the Cuban interest in strengthening tourism crown is that in last October a Pan-American Congress of Schools of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism (Conpeht) made a successful few days exploring training in the Cuban sector. Some 500 delegates from around 20 countries analyzed the influence of community in the travel industry and the rise of this influence in Cuba.

Miriam Julieta Rendon, the director of the Cuban school Formatur, praised the work of the Congress, however she stated that Cuba has a long road ahead with respect to the training of personnel for the sector. According to the Cuba press agency Prensa Latina, Formatur has 16 schools across Cuba, which train specialists and directors linked to the recreation sector. Each year, these schools prepare more than 8,000 students through courses designed with the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.

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