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Monday, 13 February 2012

Award of Excellence goes to Cuba Tourism Board as they welcome more than one million Canadians in 2011
Terrilyn Kunopaski

Terrilyn Kunopaski, editor-in-chief, & Ruben Jimenez, director, Cuba Tourism Board, Canada
After a year of reaching out to travel agents across the country through road shows, seminars and other events, the Cuba Tourism Board has earned the title of Tourism Bureau of the Year in the Awards of Excellence 2011.

It’s not the first time Cuba has won this award, but it does come at an appropriate time as the office celebrates a six per cent growth in Canadian visitors to the destination in 2011, up to 1,002,317 last year from about 945,000 the year prior.

Why such growth? According to director of the Cuba Tourism Board, Ruben Jimenez, there are many factors to consider, one being agent outreach.

"We’ve been working really closely with travel agents, keeping them informed and updated," Jimenez explained. "Also the Autentica Cuba marketing campaign has been going now for a year and the message of the campaign has been very well received and has had a good impact on the people, promoting Cuba as a sun destination but also highlighting the assets of Cuba – culture, architecture, music and Cubans as they are. I think Canadians have received that and they have visited Cuba more looking for those things."

Of the Cuba Tourism Board: Nieves Ricardo & Ruben Jimenez
Jimenez said that throughout the past year, there has been a lot of focus on upgrading and increasing the quality of product available in Cuba. There has also been the building of new properties with a focus on developing  tourism areas such as Santa Clara.

In total, more than two million travellers from around the world visited Cuba in 2011, and Canada remains the destination's number one international market. Russia, England and other European nations as well as some South American countries also provide many tourists to the island.

The goal for 2012, according to Jimenez, is to keep growing these markets.

“Canada is performing fairly well in the economy so we are positive and optimistic that Canadians will keep looking to Cuba as a favourite sun destinations,” he said.

As for the award, Jimenez expressed his gratitude on behalf of the entire tourism office for the industry's support.

“We really appreciate it,” he said. “I think it comes as a result of hard work here. We’ve been working really hard for the last year - we went through a lot of different cities in Canada carrying out and promoting the message of Cuba as a favourite sun destination to Canadians. We worked really closely with travel agents – we visited them, we updated them; we worked together with the press - we were really active. 2011, we felt like we kept working and I think people appreciated that.

“The rest of the industry felt that we were moving forward in our work.”

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