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Latin America a top tourist destination for 2016

Tourists take a selfie at the Old Havana,

Tourists take a selfie at the Old Havana, on December 16, 2015. Crowds of foreign tourists walk at the historical center of Havana while Cuban migrants mass at refuges in Costa Rica on their way to the US. When Cuba and the US announced a year ago that they would end five decades of enmity, few imagined the double effect this would produce. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / YAMIL LAGE

Latin America is on the map for 2016.

New travel developments, high-profile events and trend reports all point to the region as a major travel destination in the coming year. And at the forefront of that interest: Cuba.

Just last week, the United States and Cuba reached an agreement to allow commercial airlines such as American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines to operate flights to the island — a move that will make it even easier to visit since travel restrictions were loosened this year.

Eyes are also on Rio de Janeiro. Already a popular destination, as the Brazilian city gears up to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s building new highways, an extended subway line, hotels and tourist information centers to improve travel and tourism in the metropolis.

Increased interest in Latin American culture is also expected to boost visits to the region.

In a recent Foursquare report, the app saw a rise in user visits to Caribbean, Cuban and Peruvian restaurants in 2015, as well as mentions of Latin food staples like cacao, leading it to forecast that Latin American tastes will be big in the new year.

“We’re predicting that Latin America is going to be a very important part of travel from the U.S.,” said Sarah Spagnolo, Foursquare editor-at-large. “Food and travel go hand-in-hand.”

New hotels are also helping to drive tourism to Latin American destinations, including Cusco and Urubamba Valley in Peru and Anguilla in the Eastern Caribbean, Spagnolo said.

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