LISBON._ Gaviota, the tourism group with the largest number of hotel rooms in Cuba, is optimistic about a rise in the number of Portuguese visitors to the island and its keys, having recorded a 55 percent increase last year.

Gaviota’s promotions manager, Lisbet Betancourt, told the Prensa Latina news agency that negotiations on increasing the number of charter flights operated by Portugal’s Sonhando tour operator, from July to September, were progressing.

Gaviota, the tourism group with the largest number of hotel rooms in Cuba, is optimistic about a rise in the number of Portuguese visitors to the island and its keys, having recorded a 55 percent increase last year.Expectation has grown among Portuguese tourists over this projected increase in flights, which last year had Cayo Coco as its main destination while there are plans to include the Varadero beach resort this year, according to Betancourt, who attended the Tourism Fair (BTL) recently held in Lisbon.

The increase and diversification of flights would result in a 5 to 6 percent increase in Portuguese arrivals, in comparison to the 14,698 tourists recorded in 2014, experts said.

With more than 24,000 rooms, Gaviota focused its Lisbon Fair promotions on the Jardines del Rey archipelago, where it runs several hotels.

Betancourt recalled that the latest hotel opened there was the Meliá Jardines del Rey, the Spanish group’s largest hotel in the world with 1,176 rooms. Opened last December, it will host the upcoming Cuban International Tourism Fair from May 5 to 7.

Other facilities under construction in Jardines del Rey include the Gaviota Cayo Coco Marina, with capacity for 300 vessels and expected to be completed by 2017.

Gaviota also has a hotel in Cayo Coco run by Portugal’s Pestana hotel chain, which started operating in Cuba in 2013 and plans to open another hotel in Havana in the future.

Liset Rodríguez, a communications and promotions specialist with Gaviota, said that the group’s travel agency –which officially welcomes the charter flights- promoted its large portfolio of city, maritime and nature tours at the Portuguese fair.

Their other objective was to announce details of the (underwater) photography contests Imasub, from June 8 to 13 at María la Gorda International Diving Center in the country’s westernmost region and Naturaleza Digital (Digital Nature) in Topes de Collantes, from September 5 to 12.

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