VARADERO, Cuba – With about 13 miles of uninterrupted beach, Varadero remains one of Cuba's hottest tourist destinations.
And with the possibility of an influx of U.S. tourists, authorities are upgrading infrastructure. The northern peninsula's tourism industry makes up about 40 percent of the national tourism industry earnings, according to Cuban officials.
Cubans recently announced that they will spending about $3.2 million on upgrades to the electric grid. Workers were already focusing on the Vital Taino grid, between the hotels Aguas Azules and Arenas Doradas, according to Granma.
Suzanne Gross said her father is Cuban. She was enjoying the white sands and turquoise sea of Varadero, while traveling to visit family in Santa Clara. Tourists are allowed to travel the island freely.
Cubans are in need of "small things like toilet seats, shower curtains," Gross said.
Gross and other Cubans and Cuban-Americans who are hopeful about U.S.-Cuba talks said they believe the U.S. embargo has hurt Cuban people more than the socialist government. The tourism industry in the Matanzas province is thriving.
Until 2008, Cubans were not allowed to visit hotels for tourists, but that has changed. If a Cuban can afford it, he or she is welcome.
Last year there were about 90,000 tourists traveling from the U.S., according to Cuban officials. This year they expect that number to nearly double.
There are several hotels under construction, including the Las Conchas, El Internacional and the Mediterraneo y Oasis, according to official statements released to Radio Rebelde.
Near to the shop at Varadero's Villa Cuba, Cuban officials are working with workers from Empresa Aventur to restore the beach dunes with 635,664 cubic feet of sand, according to Granma. Erosion near hotels Iberostar Varadero, Tuxpan-Bella Costa and Punta Blanca will also be addressed.
Cuban authorities said that in October there were at least 15 private flights coming from the U.S., and they are prepared to welcome more.
Carlos Cabadilla, a shop owner, agrees with Gross. He said the relations between the U.S. and Cuba had an "antiquated" approach. If and when the U.S. embargo is lifted, he looks forward to having more customers.
"At one point they thought that the embargo was going to affect the leaders of the revolution," Cabadilla said. "What the embargo did, in layman's terms, was to screw the people of Cuba."
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: Fast facts of Cuban tourism industry
RELATED LINKS: Tourism industry in Cuba