Eco Tourism  Cuba

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"Cuba is still a paradise for the Eco tourist, unspoilt
terrain and many rare specimens of wildlife"

The country is rapidly developing areas for the eco tourism industry, and the number of tourists has more than doubled over the last five years. While information on 

Eco-tourism impact on the Cuban ecosystem is not readily accessible, local scientists note that on the northern coastline, the government is moving forward to construct beachfront hotels in major habitat regions for dozens of unique birds, rodents and iguanas. The islands coral reefs may also be at risk from increased tourism.

The country's economic predicament and the steady introduction of market-oriented restructuring are having a conflicting impact. Branded by Cubans as the "Special Period in Time of Peace," the economic crisis amplified demands to give up ecological protection for financial return at a time when funds to remedy existing problems were limited.

The focus changed by 2001, when the Tourism Ministry announced the Second International Gathering on Eco Tourism, set for central Cienfuegos Province. In addition to a round table on sustainable development and regional eco tourism, the international conference included a Cuban and Caribbean eco tourism trade fair. Participants visited places of environmental interest, including Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains, the Zapata Peninsula, the island's most extensive wetlands, and the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, which was opened October 25th, 1901 under the patronage of Harvard University.

In that same year the Cuban Government began working with Ghana to identify eco tourism attractions, to develop the African country's eco tourism and offered training for people in the sector. One important aspect of the success of eco tourism in Cuba is that about 75 percent of their tourism needs are locally produced and there is a sense of national and domestic tourism.

Eco Tourism and Wildlife in Cuba

The government stimulated the green Revolution with the introduction of the Urban gardens to feed the population.....

Cuban Animals
Cuban is unspoilt terrain with an extended wildlife, the Cuban crocodile, bats, tarantulas, Cuban Lizards, dolphins and a variety of tropical fish....

Birds of Cuba
Cuba has a variety of tropical birds and is considered a birdwatchers paradise, with several rare specimens, like the Cuban Bee Hummingbird......

Cuban Flowers
The National Flower of Cuba ....

Charcoal Making in Cuba
The Marabu bush considered as a weed is used to make charcoal in Cuba....

A Different Brand of Cuban Tourism

Cuba expects to see extensive development in the coming years in its tourist industry, which accounts for about 30 percent of the island nation's income. Tourism replaced sugar as the main source of cash in 1999, bringing in US$1.9 billion. Officials plan to develop the country's offerings beyond the customary beach resorts, focusing instead on eco-tourism, folklore and history.

"We will always have the beach and the sun," says Julio Carranza Valdes, a Cuban economist working for UNESCO in Havana. "At the same time, we should have tourism with a Cuban mark – eco tourism, cultural tourism," activities that generate premium returns, create higher-value jobs, and attract quality investments. Experts have pointed to Costa Rica as Cuba's possible model for globalization and the development of an eco-tourism business.

Cuba recently set aside some of the most important wetlands in the Caribbean for protection from development and climate change. The five sites include an array of coastal wetland types and provide support for many species of plants and animals, many of them endangered. The efforts by Cuban authorities to designate these new sites have been assisted by the Living Waters Program or WWF, a conservation group.

Fidel Castro declared that he does not see any future in a tourism that cannot guarantee health, safety and wholesome recreation during the opening ceremony of the Pesquero Beach Hotel in 2003. He stressed that visitors to Cuba will find neither gambling nor a drug trade, and those that try to use the budding industry as a way to bring in narcotics to the island will have very little prospect to expand their business.

Las Terrazas Eco-Tourism Community

Las Terrazas is easily the best and most developed eco-tourism project Cuba has. This community symbolizes the spirit of what the Cuban Revolution was all about in 1959, and what it still is to a lot of people, particularly in the rural areas. The idea was to convince small peasant farmers, who usually lived in dirt-floor, thatched-roof "bohios" with no electricity, plumbing, etc, and no schools or medical services anywhere near them, to move closer together, to form small villages or farm co-ops, so that all these services could be brought in.

The school at Las Terrazas Eco-Tourism Community teaches herbal healthcare and children learn not only how to use medicinal herbs, but also to grow them in the school garden for teas, tinctures, ointments and creams. Everyone here has an annual health check at the local Green Clinic, with two a year for those in risk groups, such as heavy smokers and drinkers, and three a year for those with diabetes and hypertension.

Cuba’s Green Revolution

In 1999 the shortage of resources and skilled personnel were putting additional strain on several endangered species in the protected area known as Cumbre, in the westernmost Cuban province of Pinar del Rio. On this list were representative species of local fauna such as the "colilargo" sparrow hawk, the "churroso" woodpecker, and the "perdiez" pigeon, in addition to a number of species of Cuban owls and snakes, and the "ocho" palm, a living fossil whose only habitat is this province.

However, all is not lost in this province, which is home to the "Finca Provincial Plantes Medicinal," a major eco-tourism attraction. This state-run 200-acre organic farm grows medicinal herbs used by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health for distribution throughout pharmacies, hospitals in clinics in the Cuban healthcare system. Raul Castro, brother of the Cuban president, started this initiative to rescue the Cuban tradition of herbal medicine and provide natural medicines for its healthcare system.

Also in Pinar del Rio is the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, a 50,000 acre swatch of land. Other rich environmental sites are Turquino National Park, boasting Cuba's highest peak, Pico Turquino, at 6,474 feet; Desembaco del Granma National Park with its rugged landscapes and endemic lizards, frogs and snails; Caguanes National Park, a group of islands off the north-central coast; and, the tropical rain forests of Alexander von Humboldt National Park.

The Guanacahibibes Peninsula,

Cuba's westernmost tip holds a true natural treasure distinguished by exuberant plant life, fauna and flora, as well as the attractions of the region’s sea bottoms. The territory also treasures the imprint of Cuba’s first inhabitants, who named the region. Nature tourism is a major attraction in Guanacahibibes, with its 50,000-hectare national park inhabited by 172 species of birds belonging to 42 families, 11 of which are endemic and 84 are migratory.

Cayo Sabinal

is an entire island set aside for preservation. Here you will find pristine beaches, gently lapping water, bird sanctuaries and crystalline lakes where flocks of flamingos nest near the shore. The only human habitation for miles is at Playa los Pinos. Cuba is undoubtedly an obvious site for eco tourism, with its picturesque beaches, underwater beauty, countryside landscapes, and ecological reserves. An educated population and improved infrastructure of roads and communications adds to the mix. In the Caribbean region, Cuba is now the second most popular tourist destination.

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