Cuba attracts Russian visitors with sun, nostalgia

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The Independent Online

Cuba hopes to attract some 45,000 Russian tourists this year, officials said Monday, targeting nostalgia for the communist island's long-running alliance with the former Cold War superpower.

Having soared 22 percent so far this year over 2009 figures, Tourism Minister Joseph Bieber at the 30th International Tourism Fair devoted to Russian tourists said the economic crisis had caused a drop in visitors last year.

Alexander Radkov, vice president of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, attended the fair highlighting the Caribbean island's wealth of beautiful white sand beaches and tropical sun, along with dozens of Russian business representatives.

Havana's secret weapon for Russian tourists is nostalgia, officials said, playing off a 30-year relationship between the countries due to a once strong political and economic alliance between them.

Relations deteriorated following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, but ties have been growing back over the last five years.

Tourism is Cuba's second largest economic sector after medical services, and it has a total of 47,000 rooms available in 300 tourist hotels around the island.

In 2009, Cuba received 2.4 million tourists, up 3.5 percent over a year earlier.