HAVANA, Cuba - The number of foreign tourists visiting Cuba is expected to reach nearly 2.
9 million in 2012 and 3 million in 2013, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.
Minister of Tourism Manuel Marrero has said recently the island country has received 2.85 million foreign tourists from January to mid-December, up 4.9 percent from the same period last year.
And the ministry has predicted the foreign tourist arrivals will be close to a record of 2.9 million by the end of the year, a target set by the country. Canada remains as the main source of tourists worldwide while Britain is the leading European source of tourists.
Marrero added that this year the tourism industry has met some difficulties such as the ongoing financial crisis, marketing inefficiencies by hotels and travel agencies, cruise suspension from Europe and the US economic blockade.
The US-led blockade against Cuba imposed in 1961 has shown no signs of ending, though the US government last year eased restrictions on travel, remittances and charter flights to Cuba.
Despite these obstacles, foreign tourist arrivals still keep rising and 3 million visitors are expected in 2013, Marrero said.
Cuba is capable of receiving over 3 million tourists with the combination of state and private tourist industry, he stressed.
"Today we have a new vision of non-state tourism, since we don't see it as a competitor, but complement to state tourism," the minister said.
The country has some 300 state hotels with 60,000 rooms while there are more than 1,700 private restaurants, over 4,280 rooms for tourists and more than 700 full houses for rent, he added.
Tourism is the second largest source of revenue in Cuba and its development is considered as a strategic sector in the economic reform package promoted by top Cuban leader Raul Castro.