Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cuba an Ideal Travel Destination, says World Tourism Organization.

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Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean. It consists of the island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Cuba was inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors had come from South and possibly North and Central America some 60 to 80 centuries before. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers and hunter-gatherers.

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed near what is now Baracoa and claimed the island for Spain. Columbus named it Isla Juana after Prince Juan of Asturias. In 1511 the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns including the future capital of the island San Cristobal de la Habana (founded in 1515) soon followed.

The provinces of Cuba are divided into various municipalities.

Fourteen provinces and one special municipality (the Isla de la Juventud) compose Cuba. These were formerly part of six larger historical provinces: Pinar del Río, Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagüey and Oriente. The present subdivisions closely resemble those of Spanish military provinces during the Cuban Wars of Independence, when the most troublesome areas were subdivided.

Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city. Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples; the period of Spanish colonialism; the introduction of African slaves; and its proximity to the United States.

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General ad interim of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said Cuba is an ideal destination for tourists and reiterated his organization’s support of the development of the so-called leisure industry in the Caribbean archipelago.

Rifai, who arrived in Havana last Monday to discuss cooperation projects with the Cuban Tourism Ministry, added that Cuba is ready to offer high quality services to visitors and to become one of the best destinations not only for its natural resources bur also for its cultural richness.

The UNWTO official commented on Cuba’s potential to diversify its tourist product and praised existing added values such as its music, its food and, particularly, the Cubans’ hospitality and love.

During a press conference in Havana, Rifai recalled that it is everyone’s right to travel freely around the world and, in this sense, his organization promotes the constant flow of tourists at the international level.

The UNWTO Secretary-General ad interim wished that all US citizens could visit Cuba but noted that the lifting of travel restrictions depends only on the US government.

“Nevertheless, we know that American private tour-operators support efforts to eliminate these restrictions,” he pointed out.

For his part, Carlos Vogeler, the UNWTO regional representative for the Americas, who accompanied Rifai, said that, in spite of the current world crisis, tourism in Cuba and in other Latin American countries continues to grow over the international average.

The World Tourism Organization was founded as Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations in 1925. Later it was renamed to World Tourism Organization in 1974 and in 2003 it got the status of specialized agency of the United Nations. It plays an important role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, paying particular attention to the interests of developing countries?.

Its headquarters are in Madrid, Spain, and its membership includes 154 countries.

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