Sex trade crackdown not slowing Cuban tourism
June 22, 1999
From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman
HAVANA (CNN) -- The hordes of prostitutes that once lined Havana's famed Malecon and Fifth Avenue are now conspicuously absent, a result of a government crackdown on prostitution launched in January to clean up Cuba's streets.
The disappearance of the prostitutes has caused the number of single or unaccompanied men traveling to Cuba to drop sharply, reducing occupancy at many of Havana's big hotels.
But contrary to some predictions that the prostitution crackdown would damage Cuba's lucrative tourism industry, the tourist trade remains as brisk as ever.
Tourists are flooding to Cuba's most popular vacation spot, Varradero Beach, in growing numbers. And Cuba is trying to expand tourist facilities in unexploited parts of the country.
The Jamaican firm Superclubs just opened its fourth resort in Cuba in Hibacoa, a beach 45 minutes from Havana.
"Tourism is doing great," said Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage. "The first three months of this year it grew 29 percent -- even better than our expectations."
Canadians are the most frequent international visitors to Cuba, with Latin Americans and Europeans close behind.
Cuba says its doors are also open to tourists from the United States, even though Washington prohibits U.S. citizens from vacationing there. But despite the ban, more Americans are coming anyway.
"They (Americans) are increasing in the last two years, and they always come through a third country, say Toronto or Mexico, for example," said Joaquin Serra of the Sol Palmera Hotel.
Fewer prostitutes, Cuba says, has created a more wholesome, family-oriented vacation environment.
Cuba sues U.S. for billions, alleging 'war' damages
The Cuban Connection Travel & Information Center
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