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Cuban government to offer private tourism products to holidaymakers starting this November

During a recent press conference held last Saturday 8th September, the Commercial Director of Cuba's Ministry of Tourism announced how the government would be offering new privately owned tourism products and services to international visitors as of next season (starting November through to April), thus enhancing the overall holiday experiences available in Cuba to the average tourist.

Cuban government to offer private tourism products to holidaymakers starting this November

Aiming to diversify the Cuba tourism product and make it more appealing to a wider variety of potential tourists with different interests when looking at the prospect of planning a visit to the Caribbean island, the Ministry of Tourism in Cuba is currently working with the government to make privately-owned establishments and services more accessible to international visitors.

According to the official announcement, the Cuban government will start promoting private offers in tourism services during the next tourist season which starts in November and ends in April.

The new privately-owned products to be sold through state-owned travel agencies and independent travel companies at home and abroad will include BandB's style of accommodation, private tours and restaurants (the so-called "paladares" which have become so famous and successful in recent years that even distinguished visitors such as the Queen of Spain, JayZ, Beyonce and Leonardo Dicaprio have dined there).

Jose Manuel Bisbe, Commercial Director of the island's Tourism Ministry revealed that at the moment, the government was in the process of recruiting a big group of independent private businesses owned by the locals such as accommodation and the above-mentioned "paladares" restaurants, which in recent times have garnered very favourable reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.

According to Bisbe, these new offers are to be sold through state-owned travel agencies, as part of the packages and programmes they offer during peak tourism season, starting this November 2013.

This new initiative follows the previous efforts made by Cuba's president, Raul Castro, since he took office in 2008, when he started updating the island's 50-year-long socialist economic model. This resulted in a slow but ongoing government retreat from running virtually everything in Cuba, including cafes, restaurants, transport and tourist accommodation.

The recent plans to also improve the country's tourism infrastructure have also extended to the renovation of the island's main airports (which are currently taking place island-wide), including the $10 million investment at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport.

Mr Bisbe also announced plans of operating new direct flights to Cuba from emerging tourism markets in Europe, such as Denmark, Poland and Spain, as well as an expansion of Air France-KLM's weekly service.

At present, Cuba runs ten international airports and three cruise terminals, which welcomed 2.8 million tourists in 2012. This year, partly due to the confirmation of new cruises arriving from Canada, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom which will be bringing in over 1000 passengers each, the island expects to receive over 3 million international travellers.

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