New horizons for nature tourism

April 1, 2019
Author: Nuria Barbosa León | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Development efforts in the central provinces of Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus focused on expanding eco-tourism

The development of tourism in the central provinces of Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus includes efforts to increase programs and circuit tours involving recreation that is healthy, pleasant, and harmonious with nature, to strengthen the region as a competitive tourist destination.

This was explained to Granma International by José Enrique González Garrido, the Ministry of Tourism’s representative in Cienfuegos and an expert in Physical Culture, who reported that the province has 11 hotels affiliated with the state enterprise groups Islazul and Gran Caribe, plus the Guajimico international villa, managed by Campismo Popular, specializing in vacations for Cuban families.

Available are 917 hotel rooms, including four star facilities in cities, with a high level of satisfaction and quality, according to opinions offered by clients, many of whom highlight the opportunities for adventure, nature, and rural tourism in the area, González said.

“We continue to work on the quality of services as a fundamental goal of our activity, although every year we reap better results on our economic balance sheet. We have become one of the country’s cruise ship stops, along with Santiago de Cuba and Havana, cities that also receive these ships,” he continued.To face the challenge of receiving a large number of tourists on a single day, strategies were adopted to diversify and design attractive new products: first within the city, recognized as a World Heritage Site, and then to rural areas for hiking and horseback riding along natural trails, offering the opportunity to observe flora and fauna, and experience the campesino way of life in Cuba.More than 10 new optional products have been identified in the province. Among them is a unique fruit farm where more than 176 species are cultivated, located in the mountains, with waterfalls and several trails.

Photo: Modesto Gutiérrez

Accommodations are available for eco-tourists and a restaurant with traditional Cuban food.Also being prepared to receive visitors is the farm of Gallego Otero, a combatant in Cuba’s clandestine struggle, who lived in several parts of the Escambray Mountains and contributed to the fight against counterrevolutionary bandits there. The last 20 years of his life were devoted to cultivating plants used in natural and traditional medicine.“We are working on another product in coordination with Azcuba, the state enterprise group affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture devoted to the cultivation and production of sugar. They identified a mill that was totally buried and took on the task of recovering artifacts. It was the Carolina Mill that operated centuries ago. Mills, extractors, and boilers have already been unearthed, and now we are preparing it to serve as a museum,” González added, explaining that a small livestock ranch and dairy, mainly sheep and goats, is nearby and could be added to the tour, along with stops at neighboring farms growing tobacco, sugar cane, and other crops.Work is also underway to consolidate the development of marine areas with potential for water sports, the mooring of yachts, areas for diving and snorkeling, as well as rivers where boating and sports fishing can be enjoyed in light crafts.These efforts were taken into consideration in the selection of the province to host the 12th International Nature Tourism Event, TURNAT 2019, to be held September 23-29, which is projected as an important gathering for professionals associated with this type of tourism, including photographic contests, within and beyond Cuba.

José Enrique González Garrido, Ministry of Tourism representative in Cienfuegos.

Photo: Vladimir Molina Espada Photo:

“For TURNAT, we have firmed up a series of optional products, which we have been working on in recent years. We are investing in the repair of facilities so they are more comfortable. We are repairing and rehabilitating sites that will later serve tourists arriving in the province,” González explained.The other TURNAT host province is Sancti Spíritus. José Rolando Delgado, director of Conservation and Tourism in this region, reported that a similar strategy is being followed here, to take advantage of opportunities for nature, adventure, and rural tourism, mainly at the site known as Lomas de Banao and along the Jatibonico River, near the neighboring province of Ciego de Ávila.Horseback riding is being developed here, as well, with three-day rides over longer stretches to truly experience the Cuban countryside, exploring untouched trails. One of these leads to a bust of a Mambí warrior, who was lost in the area around the towns of Meneses and Cueto, where the history of Cuba’s wars of independence is linked to nature.“Another product is located in Rancho Querete, on the road to Yaguajay with waterfall scenery, and two interpretative trails through the Genaro Notch and to the Valdés caves. We offer the El Brujo excursion, something mystical about Afro-Cuban culture with equestrian activities. Here, we have trails, offering swimming in the river pools, and rustic facilities to serve meals typical of the area,” explained Delgado.These excursions have been enjoyed by national tourists for several years, serving to educate Cubans in the care of the environment and the harmonious enjoyment of nature. Also available is a “Along Che’s path” tour, to tell the story of places visited by the heroic guerrilla, Ernesto Che Guevara, in the region.“Our purpose is to continue growing, first consolidating the products we offer, not abandoning them, but enriching them, adding value ​​and involving communities so that they also participate in these tourist products. We are preparing inhabitants of the area to serve as guides and offer their knowledge on the excursions,” the interviewee reported.Also located in Sancti Spíritus is the tourist pole around the city of Trinidad, with its attractive central historic district and nearby mountains, with several hotels located in Topes de Collantes. In addition to exploring the site, canopy tours are available, gliding over the mountain tops on zip lines, an exhilarating way to enjoy the views.Both experts agreed that nature tourism has become an increasingly attractive product since it is adaptable to individual interests, offers an escape from social and technological impositions, while serving as a journey to knowledge and individual responsibility, respect for the natural environment and the socio-cultural features of each site.




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