Cuba closed 2013 having welcomed a total of 2.85 million foreign tourists, a new record but short of its goal of 3 million, the Tourism Ministry said Monday.
Last year closed with a growth of 0.5 percent over 2012, Communist Party daily Granma said, citing ministry marketing director Jose Manuel Bisbe.
Canada remained the leading source of visitors to the island with an increase of 10 percent last year for a total of more than 1 million, followed by Britain and Germany.
Bisbe noted the growing number of arrivals from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic.
On the negative side, he said the U.S. economic embargo plus the world economic crisis had a big influence on the down side, citing as an example the suspension of flights to the island by the Spanish airline Iberia, which cost the island some 74,000 tourist arrivals.
Cuba has more than 60,000 hotel rooms distributed among 335 establishments, 71 percent of which are dedicated to sun, sea and sand tourism.
On the island are 30 public-private companies offering more than 6,000 rooms, operating 62 administration contracts and marketing 13 international hotel chains.
Tourism constitutes a strategic sector in the Cuban government’s plan to “modernize” its socialist economic model and represents the second largest source of foreign currency for the island’s economy.
The sector brings in some $2.5 billion in annual revenues, according to official figures.