The delightful beach resort of Varadero, about 150 km east of Havana, was decked out in its finest for the first week of May to welcome some 1,400 people from 58 countries for FITCUBA 2013, the International Tourism Fair, declared a resounding success by Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero.
For almost a week, participants engaged in a busy schedule of activities, including master's conferences and opportunities for professional exchange at the Plaza America fairground, where numerous exhibitors displayed their products and services, both for conventional tourism and for specialty options featuring health and nature, among others.
In opening remarks at FITCUBA 2013, Marrero referred extensively to tourism development plans in Cuba, which include increasing hotel room capacity by 40 percent as of 2020, representing 20,500 rooms more than current capacity.
Marrero also announced that there would be more flights to and from the island, and that five of Cuba's airports will be modernized and expanded for that purpose: Havana, Santa Clara (central region), Holguín (east), Cayo Coco (north coast) and Cayo Largo (south coast).
This year's FITCUBA fair was dedicated to Varadero, the main sun and beach destination in Cuba, and the guest country of honor was Brazil, with which Cuba expects to have increased relations in the tourism industry in the coming years.
A broad array of products were presented during the fair, such as those of the Gaviota S.A. tourism group, including a modern marina in Varadero with more than 1,300 berths and all of the facilities needed for serving boaters. Close by is the fabulous Hotel Meliá Marina Varadero, with 423 rooms, and set to open this summer.
Another outstanding presentation was undoubtedly that of the new AN 158 airliner, which will allow Cuba to operate more domestic flights. In addition, as of July, there will be two flights daily to the Mexican beach resort of Cancun, and four weekly to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic.
A gastronomy festival, Comer a lo cubano (Eating Cuban-style), was another star attraction for participants at FITCUBA 2013, with prizes awarded to top specialists in the culinary arts nationwide. For traditional cooking, the honors went to the national hotel chain Islazul; for stylized cooking, to professionals from the Gaviota Group; artistic cooking, the Cubanacan company; and for buffet, the winners were professionals from the Hotel Iberostar Varadero. In the bartenders' contest, the prize went to the Yahiti bar, at the Hotel Ocean Varadero El Patriarca, which is part of the R10 chain.
The next edition of FITCUBA (2014) will take place in the Cuban capital, the island's top tourist destination, to which the fair will be dedicated. The guest country of honour will be France, the No. 5 country for visitors to Cuba, with close to 100,000 visitors annually.