If the U.S. liberalizes tourist travel to Cuba, the country is ready to receive the visitors, said Cuba Vice President Carlos Lage in a statement from Prense Latina, the state news agency.

“Our tourism and our people are ready. It’s barbaric to prohibit a citizen from visiting his family,” said Lage, referring to the 46-year-old U.S. travel embargo.

He pointed out that President-elect Barack Obama “talked about travel for Cuban citizens living in the U.S. and the sending of remittances.”

Lage also said that tourism is a sector that requires “renewed efforts” because of its importance to Cuba’s development. He predicted that Cuba’s previous estimate of 2.3 million visitors in 2008 will be reached, despite the devastation of three hurricanes.

Tourism to Cuba has grown 10.7% this year over 2007, reaping more than $2 billion in gross revenue and employing more than 300,000 people. It is Cuba’s second-largest source of foreign income, behind nickel production.

Canada accounts for 35% of all tourists, followed by Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany with Russia “coming on strong,” according to Lage.

Cuba is booked solid through December and its resorts are gearing up for a strong season, according to Alexis Trujillo, Cuba’s deputy secretary of tourism.

The government has no plans to delay a $185 million plan to upgrade more than 200 resorts and build 50 boutique hotels by 2010, Trujillo reported.

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