Cuba: An Ever Green Idea About the World

Havana. -Understanding vacations as an active way to spend time, especially in interaction with nature, increasingly constitutes one of the best tourism options, which is why Cuban authorities dedicate a lot of time and attention to this kind of leisure activity.

With the closing of the 7th edition of the International Nature Tourism Meeting TURNAT 2011 in Cuba, participants agreed to reassert active rest as an indispensable way to understand the surrounding world.

Such a philosophy prevailed from September 26 to 30 this year in a very interesting scenario: the center of Cuba, with a perfect combination of mountains, rivers, mountain lakes and a well preserved landscape.

The right moment to reflect

The event with 234 people from more than 10 countries had just one day of talks, with the remaining days spent in the open, especially enjoying different interpretations of nature.

The event was organized by the Cuban tourist company HAVANATUR, which has 30 years of experience in publicizing Cuba's tourist offerings to the world, apart from being a leader in tourist multi-destinations.

Hosted in the Hanabanilla Hotel in the central province of Villa Clara, the event covered nearby locations, such as the provinces of Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus, under the slogan "Cuba in the Center", which delighted the participants.

The development director of Cuba's Tourism Ministry (MINTUR), Alexander Sierra, said that every year Cuba welcomes more than 2 million foreign tourists.

Sierra said that the active rest mode dedicated to nature tourism has a lot of potential in Cuba, which has a high degree of endemic plants and animals, making it the main center for this type of tourism in the Caribbean.

He highlighted the fact that Cuba has two percent of the world's fauna, collected in 13 Botanic Gardens distributed all over the island, and that the Cuban mountain system is considered among the highest in the Caribbean islands, and is also placed among the Caribbean's 10 biological poles with the greatest diversity.

Cuba has well preserved sea bottoms and nearly 2,485 miles of coral reefs. Some 23 percent of the national territory is managed as conservation areas, whether as National Parks or Natural Reserves, among other important categories.

Cuba has six Ramsar Sites, awarded to the best well preserved and protected wetlands, exemplified in the Máximo River in Camaguey and the Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata Swamp) in Matanzas, among others.

Cuba also has 11 National Parks, 12 Ecological Reserves, an Outstanding Natural Monument, 12 Fauna Reserves, 2 Protected Natural Landscapes and 3 Resource Managed Protected Areas.

Among a long list of environmental elements, Sierra mentioned 25,868 miles of island shelf, 3,106 miles of coasts, more than 500 beaches, 500 sources for medicinal mineral water and 25 percent of forest area.

In particular, the central region of Cuba includes interesting places such as Hanabanilla, El Nicho (Cienfuegos) and Topes de Collantes (Sancti Spiritus).

Scheduled for five days, the meeting is repeated every two years in a different attractive site of the island, having been transformed from a small meeting for researchers to a large reunion of tour operators, travel agents and nature lovers.

Ecotour, the Major Promoter

Stimulated by the development of the Cuban tourism industry, the experts at the local company ECOTUR are now the main promoters of active recreation. ECOTUR Director Zady Abut emphasized the effectiveness and development of the company's working team, and the development plans for her company to lead this mode of recreation in the island.

Her conversation attracted the attention of the visitors to TURNAT 2011, among them many nature lovers from the United Kingdom, the US, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil and other nations. Abut said that ECOTUR has been operating for 15 years now and is daily gaining ground in this recreation mode, with proposals for more than 100 national tours all over the island.

Abut mentioned bird watching, the crocodile breeding grounds at Ciénaga de Zapata, and the Isle of Youth as particular attractions.

ECOSUR also plans to show visitors the traditions and customs of the Cuban countryside, the culture of the people and other sporting proposals, such as walks and fishing.

As a new venture, ECOSUR will present a catalogue in November, which will present as complete a picture as possible of Cuba's potential for the development of nature tourism.

Cuban Botanic Gardens

As for the Botanic Gardens in Cuba, National Botanic Garden sub director Nora Hernandez explained that 13 important Botanic Gardens are in operation in the Caribbean island, a development that has its origin in the visit to Cuba in 1966 of Austrian botanist Johannes Bisse, who enthused about the potential of the island for such projects. She also highlighted the support of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, for this project.

The National Botanic Garden in Havana opened its doors in 1984, with 1,482 acres now in use, housing a considerable variety of species from the entire world with several pavilions and even a Japanese Garden.

Linked to the University of Havana, the National Botanic Garden complements itself with a chain of others in the country, each with its own particularities; some are dedicated to ferns, cacti or orchids.

She noted that all over the world such places are very attractive, visited by 150 million people a year. Only in Europe, 50 million people visit these botanical sites every year.

Having experienced paths with suggestive names, exciting landscapes and with a great variety in the meeting's agenda, attendees went home satisfied with the knowledge acquired and convinced that Cuban nature tourism is top-flight. (Prensa Latina)