HAVANA, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Cuba is set to use the celebrations of Havana's 500th anniversary to relaunch the capital city as a renewed world tourist destination, said Cuban Minister of Tourism Manuel Marrero on Friday.
Marrero told the state-run Cuban News Agency that celebrations around the city's anniversary, which officially falls on Nov. 16, 2019, are the ideal platform to renovate Havana's tourism and make investments for a sustainable future.
He also announced plans to open 12 new medium-high standard hotels in the city over the next year.
New investments will be targeted at building more highly competitive facilities such as luxury hotels, to offer higher quality options for visitors and "change the image" of the Cuban capital, said the minister.
"The change of image is one of the most important processes in the cities turning big anniversaries, as it is in the case of Havana," said the official.
Marrero explained that Havana plays a vital role in tourists' impressions of the country, as over half of all international tourists that visit Cuba arrive in the capital first and later tour around the rest of the Caribbean nation.
"Havana practically defines Cuba's tourism image," he said.
Tourism is Cuba's second largest source of income and generates around 2.5 billion U.S. dollars a year.
Some 4.7 million foreign tourists visited the island last year. Authorities expect to welcome over 5 million international visitors in 2018.