Cuba gets nod for luxury travel


ATLANTA, Georgia – Since August, when the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana signalled a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations, the communist Caribbean country has featured prominently in travel circles, earning kudos for various aspects of its tourism plant and securing record bookings.
Now, the island famous for its cigars, historic buildings, and vintage rolling stock, has made its way onto another list, in the process gaining the distinction of being the only Caribbean destination selected.
This time, Cuba placed among 10 destinations that the world’s top luxury travel specialists are most excited about for 2016, featuring in a list compiled for CNN by travel and culture writer Mark Johanson.
As Johanson wrote: The reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana this August signalled a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations but it also set off a race to plant a foot (wet or dry) atop this frozen-in-time Caribbean isle before McDonalds, Starbucks and Pizza Hut take root.”
Luxury tour operators like Western & Oriental reported a staggering 250% spike in bookings year-on-year.
“Travelers can sense it really is on the verge of opening up to mass tourism,” said David Pointer, the company’s Caribbean product manager.
“Flights, accommodation and car hire are in high demand and we encourage our clients to book six months in advance to ensure we can book them the trip they’re after.”
Western & Oriental will offer an 11-day UNESCO World Heritage Cities of Cuba and Beach fly-drive vacation in 2016 that takes in Havana, Trinidad, Zapata Swamp and the beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, among others.
Cuba was in good company, moreover, placing on a list that also included sought-after destinations in Japan, Borneo, Colombia and Kenya.