According to Cuba’s tourism ministry, the Caribbean island attracted a record 4 million foreign visitors in 2016, an increase of 13% over last year.
The ministry attributed the tourism boom in part to the resumption of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
“The regions that contributed most to this result were North America and Europe,” it said in a statement, adding that tourists from elsewhere also increased significantly.
Cuba attracts the second largest number of visitors to the Caribbean region after the Dominican Republic (DR). According to the National Hotels and Restaurants Association (Asonahores), the DR’s tourism sector will consume US$8.8 billion of goods and services in 2016.
The biggest increase in the number of visitors to Cuba was seen in those from the U.S. – followed by Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Britain. The key drivers of traffic were the resumption of regular commercial U.S. flights to many Cuban cities and an increase in cruises from Spain, Russia, Canada and the U.S.
Tourism is a major source of income for Cuba, along with medical and professional services, contributing more than US$2 billion to the Cuban economy in 2015.
The tourism ministry hopes the island country can attract more tourists, vowing to continue improving services and efficiency in the sector.
The Cuban government is working to improve its tourism infrastructure by increasing investments in projects including hotel construction.
In 2015, Havana along hosted 1.7 million visitors, and the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) projects a 37% jump in 2016.
Yet Cuba as a whole runs little risk of becoming overrun by foreigners. There is plenty of scope for the expansion of tourism. One common indicator of a nation’s tourism potential is the ratio of international tourist arrivals relative to its population. By way of comparison, this ratio in the Dominican Republic is 0.49, in Costa Rica 0.53, and in Jamaica 0.76, whereas in Cuba the ratio of tourists to the population had only reached 0.26 in 2014. Source: Tourism in Cuba, Riding the Wave Toward Sustainable Prosperity