Cuba Says It’s Ready for US Tourists

Havana sunset.  Photo: Syvonne Kuzuch
Havana sunset. Photo: Syvonne Kuzuch

HAVANA TIMES — The head of the Havana Historian’s Office, Eusebio Leal, in charge of the restoration of the city, said today that the Cuban capital is ready to welcome more United States visitors after the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.

“The Investment has essentially already been made,” said Leal regarding the recovery of the Cuban capital, an architectural gem that has deteriorated significantly after decades of neglect.

The accomplished thus far “is a demonstration of what we could do (despite the US embargo),” said Leal at a session of the year of the Cuban Parliament on Friday, marked by huge expectations generated by the dialogue between Washington and Havana.

Although the US embargo imposed on Cuba since the early 60’s is still in place, US President Barack Obama announced Wednesday new relaxations for travel by US citizens to Cuba as well as several commercial restrictions.

While US citizens cannot officially sightsee in Cuba, hundreds of thousands visit the island every year on licenses for family travel or for educational or cultural visits. A large number of them are US citizens of Cuban origin.

This year, the number of arrivals of US citizens to Cuba will exceed the figure of 620,000, according to forecasts by the Association of Travel Agencies in Miami, where the main Cuban exile community lives.

“Tourism will undoubtedly generate more jobs and more wealth to Cubans. The government will also benefit greatly,” said Santiago Castro, president of the association in Miami.

The agreement between Washington and Havana announced Wednesday provides for the restoration of diplomatic ties after more than half a century of rupture. The rapprochement, negotiated during months of secret talks mediated by the Vatican and others, has generated enormous expectations worldwide.

4 thoughts on “Cuba Says It’s Ready for US Tourists

  • I don’t agree. Cancun and Jamaica are pretty strong brand names to Americans. Cuba loves to generously award itself 4 and 5 stars for 2 and 3 star properties. Even the newer hotels don’t hold a candle to the high-end destinations in Cancun, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands. However, as a mid-range sex tourists destination that competes with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, you may have a point based on the lower crime reported. Still, Cubans have a long way to go with regards to service delivery and money-back guarantees. We, Americans, are sticklers for both.

  • Cuba has several advantages over other tourist destinations. It has an easily identifiable branding that any tourist board would die for. It is also safe and friendly. By being totally un-Americanized it provides a distinct and rich experience for the US visitor. Also the natural beauty of the countryside and beaches can’t be beaten. You exaggerate the issues of working bathrooms, air-conditioning and ample/consistent menus. These problems don’t affect the tourist destinations that much.

  • Cuban tourism officials seem to have a “build it and they will come” mentality about US tourists. Were it that simple, neighboring Jamaica, Cayman Islands and Cancun and others would be even more successful tourists destinations than they already are. In fact, US tourists are somewhat fickle. First, to reach the US market, destinations must invest tens of millions of dollars in promotion. Second, US tourists more so than others, demand costly conveniences like working bathrooms and air-conditioning as well as ample and consistent menus. Finally, despite the initial bump due to the simple novelty of Cuba tourism, the truth is that Cuba will likely have a much harder road to play catch-up to other Caribbean destinations. Obama’s about-face on US/Cuban relations will slightly increase purposeful licensed travel to Cuba from the US but his actions did not open Cuba to unrestricted US tourism.

  • Nice try. Obama did not open up US tourism to Cuba. He did relax the rules for purposeful travel but simple tourism is still banned.

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