Cuban Officials Detail Cuba Opportunities

The U. S. Cuba Travel Summit in Cancun ended with reports on the expansive and growing tourism product in Cuba, according to the National Tour Association (NTA). Both government and travel industry leaders described the prospective business opportunities on the island to a packed house of United States tourism business professionals. A highlight of the NTA sponsored conference was a  presentation by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) who addressed the Summit by teleconference.

A featured summit speaker was Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, who outlined the growth of hotel room inventory throughout Cuba, including many four and five star properties. The NTA said he cited a significant number of joint projects with international investors, expansion of Cuba's airports from three to 10, a fleet of motor coaches and over 10,000 rental cars, fishing and sailing vessels, beaches along all the shores, cultural and heritage sites and a variety of eco-tourism sites, as attractions.

Marrero also spoke to the open opportunity worldwide for joint investment projects, especially in the area of resort hotel development and hotel management, according to the NTA.

"The Cubans have provided us with a fairly complete picture of their tourism product and future opportunities for U.S. businesses to work in this market," said NTA President Lisa Simon, CTP. "We are very excited to have this information and look forward to a follow up conference next year in Cuba, should the legislation pending in Congress be approved."

Senator Dorgan expressed his confidence that the current bill (S 428), which authorizes open U.S. travel to Cuba, could meet the 60 vote threshold required in the Senate this year, giving the conference extra momentum, the NTA said. He asked the Cuban delegates to assist the movement of the legislation by helping to resolve controversies that could impede passage.

Five panels supplemented Minister Marrero's presentation, the NTA reports. Miguel Figueras, senior advisor to the Minister of Tourism, provided a statistical analysis of Cuba's tourism growth. Katia Alonzo, director of the Ministry of Foreign Trade & Investment, detailed a broad range of investment opportunities and information on laws, responsibilities, taxes and profit potential for foreign investors. First Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Civil Aeronautics Argimiro Ojeda addressed utilization of airport development and aeronautic technology while First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Transportation Joel Archer highlighted ports, cruise activity potential growth and highway improvement.

Travel sector leaders from Gaviota (an ecotourism focused company), Havanatur, SanCristobal, Palmares, Cubanacan, Gran Caribe, Oasis Hotels and Sol Media Cuba— all of which operate either receptive tourism services, hotels, or both— and Marinas Marlin, a deep sea fishing operator, provided information of interest to the U.S. delegates.

The U.S.-Cuba Travel Summit is presented by Alamar Associates in association with NTA and is sponsored by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA).