BAYAMO, CUBA, – Beyond pristine beaches and radiant sunshine almost the whole year round, Cuba harbors a historic treasure, which it now seeks to exploit as a tourist attraction. Granma, a province located about 675 km east of Havana, has been the stage for important events in Cuban history. As a consequence, it enjoys multiple locations that may be of interest to tourists seeking a touch of culture.
"Tourism in Granma is mainly focused on history, culture and nature, since we combine historical and cultural value. That is our main potential," Magaly Tornes, a local tourism ministry official, told Xinhua. For example, Bayamo, the provincial capital and the second town founded by Spanish settlers on the island in 1513, is considered the cradle of the nation, since it is where the current national anthem was composed and sung for the first time, Tornes said.
In that small town was born the idea for Cuban independence on October 10, 1868. In the 1950s, Bayamo was involved in the Revolution led by Fidel Castro, who found safe refuge in the nearby Sierra Maestra Mountains. Tourists excursions often take in the Sierra Maestra, especially the mountain of Turquino, Cuba's highest point at 1,974 meters.
"We have an integral development plan," said Tornes, adding that one project, named "Routes of the Revolution," was elaborating two tourism routes, dedicated respectively to Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who operated as a guerrilla leader in the province, and to national hero, Jose Marti, who fell in battle there in 1898. Granma owns 46 percent of the country's heritage sites, but it can also fall back on the Cuban regular, sun and sand.
Another destination of choice is Las Coloradas, a point on the coast 100 km west of Bayamo, where Fidel Castro and his guerrillas landed in the yacht named Granma on December 2, 1956. "Today, it is a provincial and national tourist attraction. Almost every day, foreigners visit the site, both to take in Cuban history and enjoy its natural beauty," said historian Alberto Debst. The site contains a full-scale replica of the boat, with the original being on display in Havana.
A path of 1.3 km also shows how the rebels, including Fidel, his brother and current president Raul Castro, and Guevara, reached the mangrove cover. Last year, 4 million foreign visitors arrived in Cuba, a 14.5 percent rise over 2015. The Ministry of Tourism expects the figure to reach 4.2 million this year. Knowing the tourist potential of the archipelago, the Cuban government has proposed an ambitious development program until 2030, which includes the construction of 224 hotels to expand capacity to 103,000 rooms. These development plans are an incentive for places like Granma, which have a card to play in Cuba's drive to boost diverse kinds of tourism.