HAVANA, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- The 13th edition of Cuba's major international nature tourism event, Turnat 2022, opened Tuesday after a two-year hiatus caused by COVID.
Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said at the opening ceremony in Havana, the capital city, that the Cuban government will continue to support tourism development, although the U.S. embargo on the island adversely affects the local tourism industry.
"We have the challenge to make Cuba into a more competitive tourist destination," he said.
"Aside from sun and beach tourism, we are urged to promote cultural and heritage tourism as well as historical, health and nature tourism," Marrero added.
Another attendee, Cuban Minister of Tourism Juan Carlos Garcia, said that the Caribbean nation aims to develop its local tourism industry in keeping with environmental sustainability principles.
According to organizers, the event features seminars, talks, and guided tours across tourist destinations from the western Cuban provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Artemisa, Mayabeque and Pinar del Rio, and Isle of Youth special municipality.
Running through Saturday, the event gathers tour operators, travel agents, experts and business people from 19 countries, mainly Spain and Mexico.
"This is the second time I visit Cuba," Mexican tour operator Udith Cardenas told Xinhua. "We want to create work alliances and bring more tourists from my country to this beautiful island."
Meanwhile, Spanish tour agent Diana Lopez told Xinhua that the event would give her new insights into the global tourism industry.
The event comes ahead of peak tourist season in the Caribbean nation, which runs from mid-November to April.
According to official figures, some 689,000 international tourists arrived in Cuba during the first half of the year.
In 2021, Cuba welcomed just 390,000 international visitors, far below the more than four million annual visitors the island received before the pandemic, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.
The Cuban government has projected economic growth of 4 percent for 2022, forecasting that 2.5 million foreigners will travel to Cuba this year.