Cuba hopes to welcome five million tourists this year and things are going well so far, with a seven percent increase over the first four months compared to 2018. — AFP Photo
HAVANA — Cuba's relationship with Donald Trump's administration may be worsening, but that didn't stop the island nation from welcoming more than a quarter million US visitors in the first four months of 2019.
That was a 93.5 per cent increase from the same period in 2018, said Michel Bernal, the commercial director at Cuba's tourism ministry.
The United States remains second only to Canada -- with 624,530 visitors in the first four months of the year -- in terms of tourist numbers heading to Cuba.
"Despite defamatory campaigns against Cuba, 13.5 per cent of tourists that visit us say they chose the island for its safety," said Bernal.
Cuba welcomed 1.93 million visitors in the first four months of the year, a seven per cent increase on 2018.
However, visitors from major European nations France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain were down by 10-13 per cent.
Tourism represents the second most important economic activity in Cuba, behind medical services.
Cuba says it hopes to welcome five million visitors this year -- but Washington's ramped up sanctions against Havana last month could hurt its tourism sector.
On April 17, Washington announced new restrictions on US travel and remittances to the Caribbean island nation.
It also gave the green light to lawsuits in US courts against companies
operating in properties seized since Cuban revolution in 1959.
While Trump's predecessor Barack Obama eased restrictions against Cuba to encourage US tourism to the island nation, the new president has taken a more bellicose approach to Washington's Cold War enemy. — AFP