The largest Antillean Island, traditionally a land of sugar, rum and cigars, hosted the first International Tourism Convention in the new millennium under the motto "Only One Caribbean for Tourism".
Cuba's economy, marked for years by the leadership of the sugarcane industry, enters the 21st century by the hand of tourism, which has become the engine towing the country's production and service sectors.
The event Cuba'2001 is a key element in the development of the leisure industry, since it is the platform to launch new products, sign agreements and promote all aspects of Cuba's reality.
On this occasion, the Convention holds the record of being the largest such event held so far in the country, with an exhibition area of over 10,000 square kilometers and the participation of more than 100 exhibitors.
Present at the event are representatives from 50 countries, including Germany, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Panama, Portugal, Great Britain, Switzerland, Uruguay, Spain and France, along with Caribbean nations with which Cuba promotes multi-destination programs.
Over 1,000 representatives of tour operators, travel agencies, airlines and hotel chains are competing in a race that is scheduled to finish on May 11, although for many, that date marks the beginning of a journey along the Island's promising tourist market.
Cuba's image, the event's major attraction, is conveyed by the Island's top 12 tourist regions, in addition to a wide range of products, covering nautical activities, restaurants and culture, including book presentations, film festivals, art work exhibits and musical concerts.
In that context, Cuba is presented as one of the Caribbean's fastest-growing destinations, supported by a 35,000-room hotel infrastructure and two million visitors in 2001, with prospects of five million travelers in a medium term.
The very venue of the convention, the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, considered America's biggest defensive construction in Spanish colonial times, gives the event a peculiar touch of history and traditions.
Over the past ten years, the development of Cuba's tourist sector has reflected its diversification from exclusive options of sun and beaches to other choices including health, business, family and wedding tourism, and even offers for senior citizens.
A parallel meeting of Agencies and Professionals of the Tourism Transport Sector, a regional symposium on Underwater Heritage, and master lectures by national and foreign experts complement the convention's program.
This event will prepare Cuba to create the appropriate conditions to start walking the path of growth in the leisure industry at the beginning of the new millennium.