The government is only doubling down on its bet that tourism to one of the world’s last communist nations will continue to surge. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)
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The battle for Cuba's economic future is being waged on its beaches.As most of Cuba's economy stagnates or declines, the country has launched a full-scale effort to turn virtually the only bright spot tourism into an engine that can drag the rest of the communist island through its worst economic crisis in two decades.The U.S. has also prohibited Americans from patronizing a series of hotels and other facilities run by the military conglomerate that controls many of the most important sectors of the Cuban economy.In 1996, Cuba had 30,000 state-owned hotel rooms and about a million tourists a year.In total, Cuba drew 4.7 million tourists in 2018, a 1.3 percent rise over the previous year that puts its latest goal of 5 million within reach.Official figures show that 257,000 Americans visited Cuba in the first four months of 2019, a 93 percent rise over the same period last year.Only 40,000 American cruise passengers visited Cuba in the first four months of 2018 .
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