There are many Canadians who repeatedly visit Cuba year after year, not only because of our wonderful beaches, culture and like qualities, but because of our people's genuine friendliness and hospitality, said Cuban Assistant Tourism Minister María Elena López.
In her exclusive interview with CubaPlus, the tourism official spoke about the important and growing role played by Canada as the main source of tourists for Cuba. As of November, 572 422 Canadians had visited Cuba last year. At the time she expressed optimism that the number of visitors would increase to conclude the busy winter season with as many as 645 000 Canadian tourists. "We are very optimistic," she said. "We've always been optimistic, even through all the most difficult moments, and for 2008 we plan to have better results than those already achieved."
"Canada has been our main market for a long time," added López, "an integration between two peoples for years now. Many Canadians have mingled with Cubans, creating indestructible bonds of friendship and solidarity. Having a great number of Canadian travellers come repeatedly is very satisfying. It means they feel good with us."
The short distance between one country and the other has been a strong influence, considered López, "as an important visitor said some months ago, the three and a half hours the flight lasts, is, sometimes, the same time a Canadian takes to go from his office to his home during rush hour."
"It is also true that the cold winter climate pushes millions of Canadians to travel each year, but we think that the climate shift, with already announced shorter and less frigid winters, will not change what has become a tradition: vacationing in Cuba."
Regarding the work of the Cuban tourist industry to promote the market, López stated: "Airlines, tour operators and travel agencies have a great challenge to increase the already high levels of visitors. We will not only continue to promote our sun and sand, but also other fields of the market such as culture, nature, health and longer stay tourism."
"For some time now we have been working at making our offers more interesting so that Canadians have a deeper knowledge of the destinations peculiarities. Canada is the only market where we have two tourist representation offices, one in Toronto and one in Montreal. They spread the Cuba image through billboards, in movie theatres, on radio and television, in the specialized press, internet, buses and ads in stores and airports.
Regarding longer stay tourism, Lopez mentioned the important incentive for Canadian visitors travelling with a visa ranging from three to six months.
López also mentioned Cuba‘s health tourism where "any patient, apart from receiving specialized treatment from highly qualified professionals, finds the added yalue of the climate of kindness and the hospitable characteristics of Cubans."
For example, she said, Cuba has quality of life centres, such as in Cayo Coco, were seawater therapy treatments are available. Another example is the spa at the Hotel Paradisus Río de Oro (Holguín).
"Without aiming to specifically promote any centre, I should talk about other treatments like manual therapy kinesiology, reflexology, aqua gym, acupressure, moxibustion, electrotherapy thal, together with general quality of life services including facial and body treatments, gymnasium, hairdressing, manicures and pedicures, make these places something noteworthy."
"To all Canadians who have visited us and to those who haven’t, I want to tell them that in Cuba you will always find, apart from delightful weather, great beaches, comfortable hotels, interesting cultural programs, historic centres, preserved colonial cities and places declared Humanity's Heritage, a special warmth: not only the one coming from the sun, but the one coming from the Cuban people.
"I also want to say to all Canadians, those who have already visited us and those who will, that they will always find in Cuba a warm smile and a special welcome".