Cuba expects to receive nearly 2.2 million tourists by the end of this year, according to the country’s Minister of Economy and Planning.

Alejandro Gil said the tourism industry is fundamental for Cuba’s economic recovery and he added that during the first months of 2021, the number of tourists arriving on the island was not as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes as Cuba strives to contain its deadliest surge in COVID-19 cases, following the reopening of international airports.

“The US embargo against Cuba continues to be the main obstacle for the development of the Caribbean nation,” Gil said.

Only about 1.1m tourists visited Cuba last year, down from the more than four million foreign visitors the island has annually received since 2016.

The tourism industry in Cuba accounts for more than 10% of Cuba’s income. Data from Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information revealed that 64,712 foreign tourists visited Cuba in the first four months of the year, only 6% of the 983,099 who did so in the same period in 2020.

The report confirms that more than half of the tourists who arrived on Cuba so far this year were Russians (33,592), followed by Cubans living abroad, Germans, Spaniards and Canadians. Indeed, Cuba currently receives four weekly flights from Russia. Juan Carlos García, Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, said that means that there are more than 2,400 tourists from Russia every day of the week.

Travellers must take a PCR test on entering Cuba and Mr García underlined the fact that there are many “safe” destinations for visitors such as Varadero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa María and Cayo Largo.

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