Cubans Showcase Tourism Products at Embassy Reception in Ottawa

with Peter Johansen

L-R: Eloy Govea, Director, Cuba Tourist Board, Toronto, and Monica Garcia, Director, Jesson + Company Communications, Toronto

L-R: Dallamy Diaz, Consul, and Carmen Casal Sanchez, Director of Tourism Section, Cuban Consulate, Montreal

Ottawa-based Cuban-Canadian singer Caridad Cruz

Donnie Wheeler, Havana Club Brand Ambassador

A mini-concert by Cuban-Canadian singer Caridad Cruz and steady servings of Cuban lobster and cerdo asado - washed down with Havana Club mojitos, claro - were a lovely backdrop for a networking evening Wednesday at the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa. Members of the travel trade mingled with entrepreneurs and foreign affairs officials to learn more about tourism and other opportunities in Canada’s top Caribbean destination.

For Eloy Govea, Director of the Cuba Tourist Board’s Toronto office, it’s important Canadian travel agents understand the scope of infrastructure development in the nation. “We have roughly 68,000 hotel rooms right now,” he told Open Jaw, “but there are plans to add an additional 100,000 rooms by 2030.”

Among developments he singled out is Punta Colorado, based in his home province of Pinar Del Rio, on the country’s western tip and close to Guanahacabiles National Park. It’s the first hotel in the area to be built on the ocean, he says, noting that the development involves theme parks, golf courses, a 1,400-berth marina — even a helicopter pad. An urban centre, modelled on colonial towns, will offer shopping, leisure and cultural amenities. 

Carmen Casal Sanchez, who heads the tourism portfolio at the Cuban consulate in Montreal, echoed the point: “There’s constant new rooms, not only in the beach areas that the Canadian population adore, but in the main Cuban cities as well. She pointed to Sagua La Grande, a developing destination in the country’s centre that’s close to the Villa Clara Keys. “It’s important because now tourists can go to the beach but also visit a colonial city, a very historic city, and enjoy Cuban culture.  It will allow visitors to enjoy both the beach and the Cuban people.”

And it’s that culture both officials emphasized most.

“There are more than 400 beaches in Cuba, but they’re nothing compared to our culture,” said Govea. “Look at the number of original rhythms that have come out of Cuban music. Remember that the Cuban art museum is one of the top 10 places to visit in the Caribbean. And the Cuban people are friendly, warm, cheerful, educated.  The way they experience life is so wonderful.”

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