Despite new U.S. rules, travel to Cuba increases

Despite new U.S. rules,travel to Cuba increases
HAVANA, Cuba -- Tourism to Cuba increased 8 percent in 2004 compared with 2003, despite new U.S. restrictions sharply cutting back on how many Americans visit the island.
More than 2 million tourists visited the Caribbean island, the largest number ever, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced.
Last year, about 1.9 million foreigners visited Cuba. Canadians top the list of tourists, followed by Europeans, primarily from Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
Marrero told reporters tourism now represents 41 percent of Cuba's foreign exchange income -- a leap from just 4 percent in 1990.
Few of those now visiting Cuba come from the United States.
By mid-September, visits to the island, primarily by Cuban-Americans, had dropped 25 percent since the United States implemented new travel restrictions June 30 cutting the number of authorized family visits to Cuba from once a year to once every three years.
Hard Rock Cafe reopeningafter '03 fire in San Juan
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Hard Rock Cafe in Puerto Rico will reopen its doors a year and a half after a fire roared through the restaurant and part of its roof collapsed, officials said.
The grand reopening of the restaurant will take place Jan. 17, three days before the start of the annual San Sebastian street festival in the capital, said Greg Healy, a Hard Rock spokesman.
The restaurant was almost fully remodeled and 30 seats were added to bring dining capacity to 230 people, Healy said.
He declined to say how much Hard Rock spent on the repairs or whether fire insurance covered them.
Clearing of land beginsfor slavery museum
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- Work crews have begun clearing land for construction of the U.S. National Slavery Museum.
Scores of trees were removed from the 38-acre site near Interstate 95 in Fredericksburg, Va. Eight to nine acres need to be cleared as the first step in building the museum.
The three-level, 250,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in February 2007.
The museum was designed by Chien Chung Pei, son of I.M. Pei and partner in the New York-based Pei Partnership Architects. It features a glass face with a replica slave ship as its centerpiece.
The museum is being built within the Fredericksburg portion of the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex, a development that is to include golf courses, hotels and a convention center.
Travel & amp; Leisure magazinenames its top hotels
NEW YORK -- The finest country hotel in the Eastern United States is in Walland, Tenn., just down the road from the Great Smoky Mountains, according to Travel & amp; Leisure magazine.
The secluded English-style luxury inn, called Blackberry Farm, features four-poster feather beds, fine dining and a picture-perfect rural setting.
Other winners in Travel & amp; Leisure's list of the 500 best hotels and resorts around the world, listed in the magazine's January issue, are the Post Ranch Inn, in Big Sur, Calif., for best country hotel in the Western United States; the Wickaninnish Inn in Vancouver, for Canada; and the Buckland Manor Country House Hotel in Gloucestershire, for England.
In the best resorts category, the Little Palm Island Resort & amp; Spa in the Keys won top resort in Florida; the Lanesborough won top hotel in London; La Bastide de Moustiers won top hotel in Provence; and the Kichwa Tempo Tented Camp in Masai Mara won top safari camp in Kenya.
Associated Press

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