Cuba bets on tourism as Trump restrictions take hold

Photo: Marvin Lynchard / DoD / MGN
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VARADERO, Cuba (AP) -- The battle for Cuba's economic future is being waged on its beaches. And at its all-inclusive resorts, dive sites and cobblestoned colonial plazas.

That's because the country has launched a full-scale effort to turn tourism into an engine that can drag the rest of the communist island through its worst economic crisis in two decades.

The government has now set a goal of drawing 5 million tourists in 2019.

"We're assuming responsibility for injecting foreign exchange and developing the economy," said Ivis Fernandez, the top tourism official in Matanzas province, home to the beach resort town of Varadero.

Visits to Cuba are already running 7% higher than the same period last year, partly helped by hundreds of thousands of U.S. travelers.

In 2018, the island drew 4.7 million tourists.