"If the tourism industry grows, economic activity will strengthen," Matanzas Governor Sabines said, adding that his country expects to welcome 2.5 million vacationers this year.
Located in the western province of Matanzas, about 140 km east of Havana, Varadero has seen an increase in hotel bookings over the past few months.
Sitting on a bench in Havana's Central Park, Italian tourist Mateo Ricci was waiting for a bus to Cuba's most popular seaside resort. The 32-year-old was eager to participate in the 2022 International Varadero Half Marathon, scheduled to take place on Sunday, which involved over 2,000 runners.
"We are not professional runners, but we want to enjoy the atmosphere. Sports, pure air, sun, and beach are a perfect combination," he said.
The marathon is part of the Cuban government's efforts to boost tourist activity across the country before the high season ends in April. New construction projects in the area include a boulevard, shops, and a replica of Havana's famous Floridita bar-restaurant, which is partly inspired by writer Ernest Hemingway, a resident of Cuba for almost 20 years.
"The more tourists visit the country, the better the economy will perform. Tourists bring hard currencies. Everybody is happy when they are around," said Maria Varona, a Varadero resident who stressed that an increase in tourist numbers will help revitalize the local economy amid the U.S.-led economic sanctions on the island.
Meanwhile, Varadero's 43 hotels with 17,000 rooms are also gearing up to host Cuba's 2022 International Tourism Fair in May. Ivis Fernandez, tourism delegate for Matanzas, said that tourists have been arriving in Varadero as expected since the start of the high season on Nov. 15 last year.
"We have seen a growth in the number of tourist arrivals from Canada, which is our main issuing market. As to Europe, we are receiving visitors from Germany, England, Spain, Belgium, Poland, and Italy, who are very familiar with this destination," she said.
Varadero receives more than 40 percent of the international tourists arriving in Cuba. At present, the provincial government of Matanzas is taking steps to improve digital connectivity in Varadero as maintenance and other construction projects continue in the area.
"We are committed to increasing tourism flows. If the tourism industry grows, economic activity will strengthen," Matanzas Governor Mario Sabines said, adding that his country expects to welcome 2.5 million vacationers this year.