Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow marks the start of the 38th annual Cuba International Tourism Fair (FITCuba), which is the largest professional event in the Cuban travel and tourism industry. It’s also an ideal networking venue for tourism specialists, executives and enterprises from around the world.
But this year, the tourism fair is a very special one, and Cuba is celebrating in more ways than one. We spoke with Eloy Govea, director, Cuba Tourist Board, and found out that there’s an incredible amount of developmental activity happening in the country just waiting to be experienced by visitors, specifically, a string of new hotels.
“The novelties in the Cuba Tourism Industry have special significance this year due to the volume of new development happening: 103,000 new rooms, 24 real estate projects associated with golf, 23 marinas and 47 theme parks and adventure and entertainment facilities,” said Govea. “Sun and beach products are the main focus, as this edition [FitCuba] is dedicated to it; but the program also includes the showcase of new products including eight new boutique hotels, and destinations like Sagua La Grande that goes well beyond the beach.”
Cuba’s colonial past on display
Every year, Canadians flock to Cuba to escape the cold. The Cuba Ministry of Tourism has already recorded more than 500,000 visitors to the island in the first quarter of 2018. Canadians in particular make up a large portion of the tourism market, with more than one million travellers flying down every year.
But as Govea points out, with the popular Cayos now completely recovered from Hurricane Irma, a lot lies beyond the causeway, and it’s all just waiting to be explored.
One emerging hot spot in Cuba is Sagua La Grande. A three-hour drive from the capital city of Havana, and two hours from Cayo Santa Maria, Sagua La Grande is an area that previously, was mostly untapped by tourists. Millions of travellers head to Havana to revel in the city’s colourful colonial buildings and classic cars. But just a short drive away, Sagua’s beautiful past is also on display, and the wide streets and little traffic make it easier to walk around the city and appreciate the history that still prevails there.
The streets of Sagua La Grande; Flickr, lezumbalaberenjena
“Sagua la Grande is a colonial town, located at the north of the province, whose historical centre was designated as a national monument in 2011,” Govea said. “Founded in 1812, by the beginning of the 20th century the city and its port, "Isabela de Sagua", were an important commercial centre. Sagua is the birth place of great Cuban personalities like plastic artists Wifredo Lam and Alfredo Sosa Bravo, and the musician Rodrigo Prats. And, two brand new hotels, Sagua and Palacio Arena, will be announced during FitCuba, which will launch Sagua La Grande as the newest tourist destination in Cuba.”
Hola, new hotels
With the launch of a new destination, Cuba is gearing up to offer a series of exciting new properties for every kind of traveller.
According to the Cuba Tourist Board, in 2017, Cuba welcomed more than 4.7 million visitors which illustrates a growth of 16.2 per cent from 2016. Prior to Canadians representing more than one quarter of that number last year, in the past seven years alone, Canada has sent more than one million travellers down to Cuba each year, solidifying its position as the main tourist market for Cuba.
With impressive results in the first quarter of 2018, Cuba is expecting a rapid increase of travellers from around the world, and these new hotel developments will play a crucial role in the tourism industry’s success.
“During this year's FitCuba, while having Cayo Santa María as a venue, we will launch eight new city hotels in Santa Clara, Camajuaní, Remedios, Caibarién, and Sagua La Grande,” Govea said. “They are boutique hotels; small and intimate, with notable architectural values, most of them built out of colonial mansions. They are able to welcome all kind of travellers, especially those who are more adventurous and willing to enjoy Cuban culture and history at its best.”
More adventurous trvallers will enjoy the vast product offerings in Cuba, like ecotourism or nature expeditions. Photo credit: Cuba Tourist Board
The following hotels are currently in the works:
- Hotel Florida, Santa Clara
- Hotel Floreale, Santa Clara
- Hotel Sagua, Sagua La Grande
- Hotel Palacio Arena, Sagua La Grande
- Hotel Cosmopolitan, Camajuaní
- Hotel Bauzá, Remedios
- Hotel Leyenda, Remedios
- Hotel Comercio, Caibarien
In 2018, the International Hotel is coming to Varadero, featuring 934 rooms, alongside the Packard Hotel in Havana (321 rooms), and the Prado y Malecón Hotel (250 rooms). Many additional plots of land are expecting development in 2019, Govea said, which will be unveiled at FitCuba 2018.
This year’s FitCuba will see more than 5,000 hoteliers, travel agents, airline representatives, and members of the media arrive in the Cayos del Norte de Villa Clara, the venue for this year’s tourism fair. FitCuba wraps up on May 6, but as Govea explains, so much is on the horizon for the country this year. “The culinary offer is exploding in Cuba, and many consider it the next foodie destination,” Govea said. “That, along with the rich cultural heritage, safety of the streets, and friendly, well-educated, welcoming people, makes Cuba an ideal environment for adventurous, intellectually curious types of travellers.”
For more information on FitCuba, visit http://www.fitcuba.com/es/. To learn more about the destination Cuba, visit http://www.gocuba.ca/en/.