By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – We are a few days away from the country opening its borders to international tourism. Hotels and tourist facilities have been undergoing renovations for weeks now. I can attest to this not only with what the press says, but with my own eyes every day when I pass by the Hotel Vuelta Bajo in the capital of Pinar del Rio.
Viñales, a prosperous town in the past, in the most far-western of the provinces, has high hopes. Hope is budding among home rental owners. Not only for them though, for private taxi, private tour guides, and other go-getters too.
There was a lot of business moving through this tourist destination before the beginning of the Pandemic, although I admit that tourism was already dropping in this region in 2019, just as it was across the country.
People are also hopeful. Lots of people want the country to reopen, but others, regardless of the apparent efficiency of vaccines, are afraid that tourists coming will result in a new COVID-19 outbreak.
The reality is that the country will go ahead and reopen, because the regime desperately needs fresh foreign currency to come in, to breathe life back into an economy that could be classed as disastrous, even if I’m not an expert.
Life has proven that there is a limit to people’s ability to put up with hunger and all kinds of needs. Mass protests on July 11th were irrefutable proof of this and the Government knows this.
So, what can we expect with tourism kicking off again?
While the country’s economic and social problems won’t be resolved entirely, it will at least help to mitigate the effects and thereby, calm people’s unhappiness which is growing volumes by the day.
Opening up to tourism will also mean “hunt” season will begin for hustling in Cuba. For there is a significant number of Cubans whose only life mission is to escape a land where the word “future” has been erased from the dictionary.
They have two key channels to do this: Illegal immigration or marrying a foreigner who can take them away from this hell.
The case of a friend comes to mind, who met an old Catalan man in Viñales back in 2016, when she worked as a waitress at a restaurant. She’s been receiving approximately 200 euros every month ever since then. Thanks to this, she’s managed to get by quite easily.
She was afraid to leave and live with a man she didn’t love. But she was determined and left. Once there, she was able free herself from the poor man. She didn’t want to carry on living in “the first free land in the Americas” as the slogan on our national radio station so shamelessly says, although in reality, it’s the country with the greatest dictatorship in this hemisphere.
There are many Cubans like my friend.
Well anyway, COVID cases could shoot up, the economy might make a timid recovery, and a lot, a lot of prostitution is what we can mostly expect when tourism restarts again.