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Cuba to Build Golf Courses and Theme Parks to Attract Tourists

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Cuba’s government plans to build 13 golf courses by 2020 as the communist island looks to offer more than sun and sand to the 2.7 million people who visit each year, Deputy Tourism Minister Alexis Trujillo said.

The country also intends to build several theme parks and add 25,000 hotel rooms as it looks to broaden its image, Trujillo said at a news conference in Havana today.

“They’re all in different stages of negotiation,” Trujillo said. “It’s a program that includes the participation of mixed capital that’s now been in the country several years.”

Tourism has become the island’s main source of foreign currency since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s cut off economic subsidies and triggered a recession. While the country is famous for the dilapidated charm of Havana and its cars dating from the 1950’s, most tourists go straight to beach resorts on the Caribbean island.

Visitor numbers rose 7.3 percent last year after U.S. President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions and allowed people on religious and cultural exchanges to visit the island. Almost 285,000 Cuban-Americans and 21,000 U.S. citizens have travelled to Cuba since then, Trujillo said.

There has been has been no significant influx of American visitors for Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival on the island today, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Charlie Devereux in Havana at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net; Eric Sabo in Panama City at esabo1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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