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Cuba saw 12 percent more visitors than last year

Staff Writer |
More than 2 million tourists have visited Cuba this year. Minister Manuel Marrero said visitor numbers were running 12 percent ahead of those last year, which already saw a record number of tourists.

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The surge is credited to a wave of international interest in Cuba prompted by the announcement of U.S.-Cuba talks in December 2014. Visitor numbers are expected to get a major boost after commercial flights from the United States begin this month.

The government announced that Aeroports de Paris, the French government-controlled firm that runs Charles de Gaulle, Orly and other Paris airports, would receive a concession to operate Jose Marti, which would be renovated by the French firm Bouygues.

The airport should be able to receive hundreds of thousands more tourists a year will almost become of the most important infrastructure projects in Cuba, and the largest French-Cuban deal since President Francois Hollande visited the island in May 2015.

Cuba expects to receive 3.8 million tourists this year. Josefina Vidal, Cuba's head of U.S. relations, said on Twitter Wednesday that 138,000 Americans visited in the first half of 2016, an 80 percent increase that made the U.S. the second-largest source of visitors after Canada.

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