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The arrival of 809,937 visitors to Cuba during the first quarter of this year, set a new record figure for the Caribbean nation’s high tourist season.

The official figure, published by the Cuban National Statistics Office (ONE) surpasses all previous reports and exceeded by 2 percent the figure reported same period of 2008; the event takes place despite the serious impact by the economic crisis on the tourist industry all over the world, which could stop the historic and sustained growth of the sector.

Experts with the World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimate that this year, the industry, at world level, could again see the decrease in the number of tourists that took place in 2003, when the indicator fell by 1.4 %, or the 2000 null growth, with particular impact on Europe and The Americas.

This forecast could either improve or worsen depending on the performance of the world’s economy, with an emphasis in the aforementioned areas, where the most severe effects of the crisis are being felt.

Tourism has proven to be one of the most resistant economic sectors and it may signal a strategic way ahead, at a time when the world economic situation continues to deteriorate, according to the WTO.

Since 1996, Cuba has been part of a reduced group of five Caribbean countries that has been receiving over one million foreign visitors annually, and since 2004 Cuba has reported more than 2 million visitors, a figure that has remarkably increased till reaching 2,35 millions last year.

Canada has consolidated its position as Cuba´s main source of tourists, with 818,246 vacationers in 2008; the figure is far larger than the one reported the previous year, which marks a tendency that has prevailed for nearly a quarter of a century.

Other major sources of tourist to Cuba, after Canada, were the U.K., Italy, Spain and Germany in that order, while in Latin America Mexico and Argentina occupied outstanding positions.

Since 1985 Cuba has experienced a sustained growth in the tourist flow, with short downfalls in 2002, 2006 and 2007.

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