Arab Spring and US reforms make Cuba a tourist hotspot

Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:28pm GMT

* Cuban tourism industry at full capacity, experts say

* Americans tourists on rise under new U.S. regulations

* Many tourists interested in seeing economic reforms

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The Arab Spring, changes in U.S. policy and economic reforms at home are driving a tourist rush that is giving communist-run Cuba one of its best seasons ever and stretching its ability to accommodate demand.

Hotels are full to the brim and Old Havana, the capital's historic center, is teeming with tourists from around the world, soaking up the warm winter sun in outdoor cafes and strolling through narrow colonial streets.

Along the nearby Malecon, Havana's seaside boulevard, 25 buses were lined up on a recent sunny day, waiting to carry visitors to their next destinations.

At the Bodeguita del Medio, where Ernest Hemingway supposedly drank mojitos and tourists now go to emulate him, almost as many people stood on the stone-paved street waiting to get into the jam-packed bar as were squeezed inside.

"We are at capacity. The beach resorts, Havana city are totally full. In the interior of the country, there is nowhere to find a room, nowhere," said the manager of a foreign hotel company.   Continued...

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