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Weekly report on Cuba's tourism industry
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Nature Tourism: A 21st Century's Option

The development of tourism in Cuba, backed up by an offer of excellent beaches, a rich history and singular traditions, is complemented by the island's unique nature, which can satisfy the needs of the most demanding clients.

With the arrival of the new century, Cuba's natural attractions, including its beautiful landscapes and the peculiarities of its flora and fauna, are key elements for the development of the leisure industry.

Getting close to nature from a beach or a city increases the value of the tourist product, in addition to visitors' interest in learning about the reality in Cuba's countryside and enjoying an almost virgin environment that invites them to get involved in a great adventure.

Cuba's fauna is made up of 16,500 species living in an environment where the endemic rate of some zoological groups is over 90 percent, while the autochthonous flora is composed of 6,300 species, creating a multicolored and diverse panorama.

Natural and biosphere reserves, natural landscapes, national parks and protected areas make up a wide gamut of offers, marked by their richness, excellent preservation and unique characteristics that differentiate Cuba from other countries in the region.

Cuba's strategy is ambitious. By 2005, the island expects to receive up to 100,000 vacationers attracted by the so-called nature tourism, based on an infrastructure that includes more than 100 specialized paths and routes, developed by the major tourist companies in the country.

Sierra Maestra mountain range
Gray crane
Viñales Valley. Sierra de los Organos

One of the strongholds for this tourist modality is the Viñales Valley, in the western province of Pinar del Río, with its peculiar hills known as "mogotes", characterized by upright slopes and rounded tops that can be more than 400 meters high.

Large cavern systems complement the singular attractiveness of the region, where the Cueva de Santo Tomás, with more than 45 kilometers of explored galleries, stands out, as well as nearly 750 varieties of orchids in Soroa.

The Zapata Swamp, in central Cuba, which covers 5,000 square kilometers and is considered the largest swamp in the Caribbean, is home to more than 1,000 plant species and holds a world-famous crocodile farm.

The 64-meter-high Caburni waterfall and the Martín Infierno Cave with its 60-meter stalactite, among other attractions, await tourists arriving in central Cuba, where the Escambray, the region's major mountain range, is located.

The island's highest mountains are in the eastern region, in the Sierra Maestra, where the homonymous National Park is located. This is a region where history, legends and the most autochthonous traditions go hand in hand with its breathtakingly beautiful nature.

Cuba's leisure industry, the fastest-growing sector of the island's economy, is reminiscent of Admiral Christopher Columbus' words more than five centuries ago, when referring to the largest Antillean island he said: "This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have seen".

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