Now that President Obama has restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, and travel to the country has resumed, albeit on a limited basis to start – airlines have received permission to negotiate routes, and Fathom's MV Adonia made its first port call to Cuba last week – an influx of American tourists is expected in the island nation just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
The question has been, and remains, where to put them all. Cuba might have an answer in a system it has eschewed for decades – foreign investment. At the conclusion of the recent FitCuba International Tourism Fair held in Havana, the country’s business director of the Cuban tourism ministry, Jose Daniel Alonso, announced that Cuba will launch 127 separate projects specifically related to tourism. Part of the goal is to almost double the current 65,000 hotel rooms by 2030.
Alonso announced at the event that 25 of those projects are aimed at building new hotels while another 97 initiatives include hotel management – with or without foreign financial backing – and five will deal with the management of marinas.
Just as the major U.S. airlines and cruise lines have jumped into what could be a lucrative new market, U.S. hotel chains that have heretofore been denied the opportunity to do business in Cuba due to the 50-year old trade embargo are eager to build in Havana and the country’s other beachfront tourism areas.
According to a Cuban press release, in 2015 Havana welcomed 1.6 million foreign visitors – up 21 percent from the previous full year. In the first quarter of this year, tourism is up 37 percent over the same first three months in 2015.
Alonso said that as of December 2015, Cuba offered 65,676 hotel rooms, while another 108,000 rooms will be built between this year and 2030. He added that the tourism ministry emphasizes the construction of what is known as ecologic hotels, as well as new products linked to nature and health tourism, according to reports.
And, apparently, Cuba is thinking much bigger than just the United States. According to a weekend report by the Xinhua News Agency in China, Cuba is looking to lure more Chinese tourists. "We are going to build a five-star luxury hotel at the Hemingway Marina (west of Havana) with the Chinese firm Suntime, and a resort golf course with (residential) apartments in the Bellomonte area (east of Havana) with the company Beijing Enterprise," Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told Xinhua at FITCuba.