On April 13, President Obama announced plans to ease restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, including unlimited trips to visit family in Cuba. And bills in the U.S. House and Senate would effectively allow all Americans to visit.
Cuba began encouraging international tourism after the fall of the Soviet Union, and its top feeder countries are Canada, Britain, Italy, Spain and France. Foreign tourist visits jumped 9.3 percent last year to a record 2.35 million, generating $2.7 billion or 11 percent more than 2007, the government says.
Despite the global economic downturn, international visitor rates have increased 4.5 percent through February as compared to the first two months of 2008.
An influx of Americans could create a lodging crunch. The communist state has partnered with foreign companies such as Spanish chain Sol Melia to offer about 46,000 hotel rooms across an island about the size of Pennsylvania. Some 17,300 of those rooms are concentrated in the beach resort of Varadero, 90 miles (140 kilometers) east of Havana.
Cuba plans to build 30 new hotels nationwide to tap into the market for boutique accommodations. Some of those have been completed, but many aging properties have been shut down for remodeling, leaving the total number of rooms flat since 2006.
Notice that Cuba's tourism #s are slightly up despite the economic market. How will a "free travel to Cuba" US policy affect our beloved Belize?
Only time will tell.
Future full time Belizeans
Tommy & Sonia Blackledge
Magee, MS 601-849-1918