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Cuba`s decline continues into January 2002

The post-11 September 2001 decline in Cuba<.>`s tourism business – the country`s most important economic sector – has stretched into…

The post-11 September 2001 decline in Cuba<.>`s tourism business – the country`s most important economic sector – has stretched into January, further weakening the economy. Occupancy was down 25 per cent in Havana, 40 per cent at Varadero and 10-20 per cent in the rest of the country, compared with the same month in 2000.



For the first eight months of last year, according to a tourism ministry arrivals were up more than 8 per cent. But by the year`s end, arrivals had increased just 1 per cent from the 1.8 million tourists who visited in 2000. Arrivals increased at an annual rate of 19 per cent in the 1990s despite the US government ban on most of its citizens visiting Cuba.



In 2000 the Caribbean island`s tourism revenues were US$2 billion, accounting for 43 per cent of the country`s dollar earnings needed to import fuel, food and other products. About 50 per cent of tourists visiting Cuba spend time in Havana, while about a third stay at the Varadero resort, 140 km east.



This year, Cuba is focusing its efforts on drawing tourists from Europe, Canada, Brazil and Mexico. Among the new offers figure special tourism packages for people visiting Cuba on the occasion of international cultural events like the Havana Book Fair, the International Ballet Festival and the Festival of New Latin American Film. Agencies will also continue offering special rates for those participating in the more than 400 international events scheduled this year in different parts of Cuba.



According to official statistics, 1.8 million foreign tourists visited Cuba last year, just 0.3 per cent up from 2000, a tiny increase that postponed – for the second year in a row – the target of rising above the 2 million visitor threshold. But the number of visitors from Canada, Cuba`s main source of tourists, rose 13.9 per cent between 2000 and 2001, the inflow of Mexicans grew 13.8 per cent, and arrivals from France and the UK were up 5 and 4 per cent respectively. However, the flows of tourists from Germany, Spain and Italy shrank significantly.

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