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“U.S. hotel chains are in the unfavorable position of going up against European brands that have already established a strong presence on the island.”

— Jason Clampet

In the 1950s Cuba was an exotic playground for U.S. celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardener, as well as ordinary tourists, who travel led there en masse on cheap flights and ships from Miami.

 

A recent relaxation of some of the restrictions on U.S. travelers has encouraged over 106,000 Americans to visit Cuba so far this year, more than the 91,254 who arrived in all of 2014, according to data compiled by tourism professor José Luís Perelló of the University of Havana.

 

Overall, tourist arrivals are up nearly 18 percent this year after a record 3 million visitors in 2014, making Cuba the second-most popular holiday destination in the Caribbean behind the much-smaller Dominican Republic.

~Mike Stone and Mitra Taj

Read the full Reuters report on the Race for American Hotels in Cuba