by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Cuba is betting on rural tourism to help boost the economy amid stepped up U.S. sanctions against the Caribbean nation.
To get a taste of rural life in Cuba, tourists can visit the Coastal Farm project in the fishing village of Santa Fe on the outskirts of Cuba's capital Havana.
"Visitors enjoy interacting with people in their communities," said artist Yoanka Esteves, who spearheaded the initiative. "We show the real life of a Cuban family."
Covering half a hectare, this coastal haven was created when Esteves and her family decided to leave Havana's Playa district and settle down by the sea.
"They thought I was crazy because of my decision to abandon the bustle and hustle of city life," Esteves said.
The farm combines food production with tourism and the arts while generating job opportunities in an underserved neighborhood and serving as a home to Esteves and her family.
The property features organoponics (a system of urban agriculture), an aquaculture area, eco-friendly cabins, two Cuban restaurants, a sculpture workshop and an orchid garden.
Founded in 2020, the local development project currently employs some 50 people from the community, including 45-year-old Henry Sosa, who voiced confidence that the initiative and the like can spur tourism.
"People's involvement in different activities is one of the project's main revenue generators," Sosa said.
Currently, the farm is implementing seagrape and mangrove planting programs to help mitigate the impact of climate change along Havana's coastline.
Raul Naranjo, director of Cuba's ecotourism agency Ecotur, notes nature tourism continues to gain popularity among tour operators and travel agents operating tours to the Caribbean nation.
"Post-pandemic tourism around the world, and especially in the Caribbean, is marked by the impact of COVID-19 and climate change," Naranjo said. "This new scenario prompts us to be resilient in the face of global challenges."
Cuba's government forecasts a 4-percent economic growth in 2022 and expects the arrival of nearly 2.5 million foreign tourists.