Awaiting American avalanche, Cubans rush to the beach
By Jaime Hamre
VARADERO, Cuba (Reuters) - Cubans are flocking to the beach in record numbers before a possible end to the U.S. travel ban that would open the gates to American tourists and bump up prices.
Until 2008, the Communist government banned Cubans from tourist hotels. Since then, the industry has been shocked at how many Cubans check in: 1.2 million permanent Cuban residents last year, up 23 percent from 2013.
The government's tourism officials have reported another increase this year, without providing figures.
Experts say many of those visiting beaches and hotels are able to afford it because they receive money from relatives living abroad, especially in the United States.
In a clear sign of the changing times, state television news recently ran a segment informing Cubans of the proper etiquette for vacationing in the same resorts as foreigners.
"Keep voices low, don't smoke, and don't litter," the newscaster said. "Hopefully when visitors return home they can say they saw more than beautiful beaches and classic cars; hopefully they can say how well-mannered Cubans are."
Varadero, about 100 miles (160 km) east of Havana, is Cuba's leading beach resort, boasting fine white sand and turquoise blue waters.
Cubans are now the number two source of tourists at Varadero, trailing only Canadians, and they are slightly ahead of Canadians nationwide. Continued...