Mon | May 27, 2019

Editors' Forum | Cuba taking cues from Ja as tourism industry booms

Published:Saturday | May 18, 2019 | 12:18 AMCarlene Davis/Gleaner Writer
Counsellor and press attaché at the Cuban Embassy, Ricardo Calvo Aguila.
Cuban Ambassador Inés Fors Fernández
In this May 11, 2019, photo, a theatrical group performs on the Canimar River in Matanzas, Cuba. The island country is trying to revive businesses ranging from agriculture to textiles by turning them into part of the supply chain for the tourism business.
In this May 13, 2019, photo, tourists take photos while being transported by boat to the Laguna del Tesoro in the Zapata Peninsula, Matanzas, Cuba.
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Cuba has been experiencing a massive tourism boom over the last five years, according to Ambassador Inés Fors Fernández.

Fors Fernández, who was speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week, said that since the start of 2019, Jamaica’s northern neighbour has already recorded more than two million visitors.

“There is a huge [number] of people travelling to Cuba,” Fors Fernández told the forum, adding that the country’s rich heritage is a pull factor to foreign travellers.

“It’s a very interesting country because now, we are celebrating the 500th year of Havana City, and if you go to the old Havana, you will have the opportunity to see a lot of museums, and our architecture is very well preserved. It is amazing, and the Cuban people are like the Jamaican ones – very hospitable and warm people – and there are a lot of people all over the world interested in travelling to Cuba,” she said.

“There are people who are afraid that if the US customs realise that they were in Cuba, they would be blacklisted, and so, for example, for Jamaicans travelling to Cuba, we give them what’s called a flyer visa. It’s not stamped in your passport,” said Fors Fernández.

The ambassador said that the country was working to actively promote its tourism industry as it is one of the main pillars of the economy, and the country has been taking cues from Jamaica.

“Even at this moment, I think we have the same [number] of tourists travelling to Cuba like the same [number] you receive. It’s something interesting because you are talking about four or five million, and we have the same figure,” Fors Fernández said. “I think Jamaica has a lot of experience when it comes on to tourism. We say to Cuban tourist authorities, ‘You have to go to Jamaica because they have a lot of experience.’”

For persons who are afraid of travelling to Cuba, the ambassador said there is no need to fear as the Obama administration removed it from the list of countries that sponsored terrorism.

“They are not US tourists because, as you know, it is forbidden by law that US citizens travel to Cuba as tourists, but after Obama, there were many people travelling to Cuba because one of the restrictions that Obama lifted was the restriction for people who wanted to travel freely, so there were a lot of people travelling to Cuba. There are many Canadians who come every year and stay for two to three months,” said Fors Fernández.

Counsellor and press attaché Ricardo Calvo Aguila, who was also at the forum, added: “You are not in danger in Cuba. You can walk wherever and whenever you want with no danger for your life.”

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com