HAVANA,Oct. 21 With a growing number of visitors, the city of Cienfuegos located about 250 km southeast of Havana has become a new pearl of tourism in Cuba.
The only city in Latin America originally built by the French sits on the edge of a wide harbor frequented by cruise ships and yachts loaded with tourists from Canada, Germany and France — Cuba’s main tourism markets.
Characterized by rectilinear streets and neoclassical architecture, the city boasts about 700 private homes that rent out some 1,400 rooms, which supplement the 861 hotel rooms available.
Different from the rest of the Caribbean island, the city’s unique architecture is a particular attraction to foreign travellers, largely Canadians, who stay here from a couple of weeks to two or three months.
Another attraction is the region’s verdant Escambray Mountains, rich with nature trails ideal for hiking.
“Basically, the tourism that we run in this city is urban tourism, although our territory has the peculiarity of being very closely tied to nature,” said Yolexis Rodriguez, the provincial deputy delegate of the Ministry of Tourism.
The city’s location in central Cuba and proximity to other tourism destinations, such as Trinidad and Santa Clara, make it an ideal base from which to explore other parts of the country.
Rodriguez, an economist and expert on business administration, said there were plans to expand the city’s hotel accommodations through a partnership between Spanish hotel chain Melia and state-owned Gran Caribe group.
Executives of Melia Hotels International have visited the city several times in preparation for managing the local 56-room San Carlos Hotel from January 2018, as well as the 49-room La Union, both located in the historic city center, a UNESCO-designated world heritage site.
In addition, the Jagua tourism complex, which includes four 173-room hotels — the Jagua, Blue Palace, La Perla and Casa Verde, is to be renovated to “brand standards” and managed by Melia.
Cienfuegos is Cuba’s third most important port, after Havana and Santiago de Cuba, for cruise ship arrivals.