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Despite Trump, US travel companies bet on Cuba

Friday, May 26, 2017 - 01:55

Cuba's first five-star hotel opened its doors this week. It's run by a European company, but US firms too are queuing up to do travel business there in the hope that U.S. President - and hotel operator - Donald Trump doesn't close the door on Havana. David Pollard reports.

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It may look like a car, if in fact it's not. The cruise ship though is the real thing. And here at this tourism conference in Havana, there's a sense that, for US visitors, Cuba's travel trade is becoming so too. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR VICEPRESIDENT FOR REAL ESTATE AND DEVELOPMENT AT HYATT, DAVID TARR, SAYING: "We are in the hospitality business so we want to be doing business everywhere our guests want to visit. We believe our guests want to visit Cuba which is why we're here". A record four million visitors arrived in Cuba in 2016. After US President Obama eased travel restrictions two years ago, that included 285,000 Americans. A relatively small number. But who feel that despite Donald Trump's talk of rolling back relations, there's a big draw. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST, MICHELLE PIERRE, SAYING: "My mother, my father, none of them have had the opportunity to come, so now that it's open I think a lot of Americans, especially younger Americans that are now doing the abroad (thing), seeing more of the outside of our normal are definitely going to want to come to Cuba. I think it's beautiful." Cuba's first five-star hotel has just opened its doors - though that's run by Europe's Kempinski. And US online booker Expedia is now offering Cuba options. It joins around a dozen US airlines and cruise operators to already venture there. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST, KAITLIN FOURMEN, SAYING: "To me, it seems as if (Cuba) is getting ready, quickly ... The infrastructure seems like they're definitely doing work on it to improve some conditions of the city, Old Havana, and kind of get ready for the tourism that's coming in. I mean, the cruise ships alone that's tons of people." And tons more could come. One survey predicts US visitor numbers to go from the current trickle to a significant wave .... as many as two million a year expected by 2025.

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Despite Trump, US travel companies bet on Cuba

Friday, May 26, 2017 - 01:55