Communist Cuba Again Becoming Tourist Hot Spot

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VARADERO BEACH, Cuba - Americans have been forbidden to travel to Cuba for more than five decades, but today tourism there is strong and getting stronger. 

CBN News travelled to the Communist island nation to see why so many people from around the world are calling Cuba the place to vacation this year.

Socialism Fading Away

Fifty years after the United States imposed a trade embargo on Cuba, this island nation is still feeling the effects. Automobiles are considered a luxury, and the newest American car in Havana showed up in 1962. 

The average Cuban lives on just $15 a month with many depending on relatives outside the country to get by.

But it wasn't always this way. In the 1950s, Cuba drew many well-to-do Americans to its white sandy beaches only 90 miles south of Miami.

After Cuban dictator Fidel Castro took power, the tourists stopped coming and Cubans went back to living as they had for generations.

Now, hardcore socialism is fading and visitors are returning.

More than a million foreigners, like Tom and Peggy from Ottawa, who declined to give their last name, vacationed last year in the resort town of Varadero, making Cuba the fastest growing tourist destination in the Western hemisphere.  

"Everybody from work is coming here. Seems to be the big hotspot this year, so that's why we're here," Tom said.

Viva America!

Although there are thousands of tourists in Varadero, Americans still appear scarce. But that could be about to change.

If the embargo ends, the city could become a hotspot for American tourists like it hasn't been in more than 50 years.

Currently, it is still technically illegal for Americans to come here on a tourist visa. During the Pope Benedict XVI's recent visit, he called for the embargo to be lifted.

The Obama administration has indicated it would be willing to consider such a move.

The Cuban people seem to be excited about the possibilities.

"The tourism here is very good," Cuban taxi driver Pepe told CBN News. "Cuba is a very safe country. Things that your children couldn't even do at home, they can do here."

"We don't care about politics," he continued. "This is the time to be making investments!"

"In my opinion, most of the tourists coming here today are European, but that is changing," Juan Carlos Casas Navarro, a Cuban construction worker, said.

"We're seeing new opportunities open up here, thanks to the government, for Cubans and foreigners alike," he said.

Meanwhile, as the demand and optimism grows, more hotels are under construction in Varadero Beach.   

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Chuck Holton

Chuck Holton

CBN News Reporter

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