By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES — There was a time when exhibiting buying power far greater than any salary in socialist Cuba was taboo and downright dangerous. People with illicit income or from undeclared gifts had to conceal their wealth the best they could or risk the consequences.
Today, such modesty is no longer necessary, with the country’s economic reforms that opened markets such as real estate and automobiles and allows for some private businesses and the hiring of non-family labor. The same goes for the immigration reform and travel abroad.
The latest example is an offer from the Cuban tourist agency Havanatur, in conjunction with Blue Panorama, which just announced tourist packages to Italy for Cubans residing on the island. Another option is a circuit to visit several European cities.
For the sum of around 3,000 CUC (US $3,400) a Cuban can visit Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. Another circuit focuses exclusively on Rome and surrounding areas including Venice.
The packages themselves, designed for 20 tourists, vary between 2,391 and 2,934 CUC per person, but there are considerable other expenses to take into account, reports Café Fuerte, noting the average monthly salary in Cuba is around US $23.
The circuits have a maximum of nine days and eight nights; with guaranteed accommodation in three-star hotels with breakfast only included. In addition to the airfare, the package covers tickets for buses and trains, and the entrance to museums and other historic sites plus the assistance of a guide fluent in Spanish.
Other expenses not included are immigration visa procedures, travel insurance, airport departure taxes, excess baggage charges, food and drinks not listed as “included” and some additional hotel services or fees and taxis in the Italian cities.
Ivan Soto, general manager of Blue Panorama in Cuba, told industry people assembled at Havana’s Melia Habana Hotel that immigration procedures should not take more than a week and will be managed by the Caribbean Distal travel service with offices in Vedado, Havana. He said the visas are valid for 10 days only.
People who are denied a visa will receive a full refund of the amount paid for the package, said Soto.