TORONTO._ If market trends maintain their course of the past seven years, Cuba is set to become, within a relatively short time frame, the second choice vacation destination for Canadian tourists.

Eloy Govea, director of the Cuban Tourism Office in Toronto, supported this prognosis in comments to The Havana Reporter about preliminary results indicating that 905,525 Canadians have already traveled to the Caribbean island this year.

He explained that this figure accounted for 41% of all arrivals in Cuba, an affirmation of the importance of a market that since 2011 has surpassed the million tourists per annum mark and is, by far, the single biggest source of tourism to our country.

If market trends maintain their course of the past seven years, Cuba is set to become, within a relatively short time frame, the second choice vacation destination for Canadian tourists.According to Govea, the notable increase registered during the first seven months of this year is in the first instance cyclical, but nonetheless a significant indicator of an opinion matrix that gives rise to the desire to visit Cuba before the expected boom in U.S. tourists materializes.

He added that the fact that there are 30 cities in Canada with direct flights to Cuba is also a positive factor as it is a baseline that guarantees the availability of more than one million seats annually.

The correct balance between product quality, available services, prices and very competitive rates also rank highly among factors contributing to the continuous growth in the numbers of Canadian tourists to Cuba, which presently ranks third in their preferred world destinations.

He said that only two countries surpass Cuba; the U.S., visited by 23,000,000 Canadians each year and Mexico, visited by around 1,500,000, meaning that it is not unreasonable for Cuba to aspire to move up to second place over the coming years.

He added that Cuba had particular attributes that supported the attainment of that goal; the safety factor, the courtesy, friendliness and educational level of the people – which he emphasized as undoubtedly the principal element – and flight times of barely three and a half hours to travel to high quality beaches.

Last year more than 1,175,000 Canadians visited Cuba and the figures for the close of this year, with a drop in the value of the local dollar, could show a rise of up to 10%.

With this objective in mind, the Cuban tourism Office in Toronto, which covers 9 of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories, is planning increased participation in more than 60 fairs over the course of the year and the organization of a greater number of product presentations and training seminars.

Govea said that an increase of this magnitude requires, above all, diversification of market segments and the geographical regions that we focus on. He stressed that this is where the real scope for growth lies, in addition to captivating a greater number of tourists from the west coast.

In this way, wedding package trips show increasing and encouraging degrees of acceptance by Canadian travelers which, because they generally involve groups of people, give rise to increased numbers of visitors and also contribute to combating seasonality.

Historically considered to be the main emissary of tourists to Cuba, the Canadian market contributed a total in 2008 of 818,246 arrivals, rising to 914,884 in 2009 and again to 945,248 by 2010.

In 2011 Canada surpassed the one million barrier with 1, 002, 318 tourists entering Cuba, and the following year this number rose again to 1,071, 696.

The number of Canadian visitors for 2013 was 1,105,729 and the total for 2014 was 1,175,077, representing well in excess of one third of all foreign visitors to the Cuban archipelago.

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