Monday, December 21, 2009

"Ready for the first million"

Last Wednesday there was a meeting by videoconference between U.S. travel industry representatives and tourism ministry and company representatives in Cuba. AP coverage here; Reuters here.

I attended, and it was an interesting exchange. When asked if Cuba is ready for a surge in travelers from the United States, a Cuban official responded, “We’re ready for the first million.” He outlined plans to build more hotels if demand surges, adding 10,000 rooms to the current capacity. Cuba’s preference is to build these hotels as joint ventures with foreign investors, as was done in the early 1990’s. He noted that of Cuba’s 48,000 hotel rooms, about 6,000 are in joint venture hotels (where the foreign companies are part owners) and about 25,000 are in hotels under management contracts with foreign companies (where the foreign company has its brand on the hotel and handles management and marketing).

Another official said that in a four-month period (June-September) this year, 59,000 Cubans bought hotel packages to stay in hotels in Varadero, Cayo Largo, Cayo Santa Maria, and elsewhere. More on this here.

7 comments:

theCardinal said...

ok, I'm fine for lifting the Travel ban...but what do we get in return? We can't give up something for nothing. What does the US get? Is Cuba offering anything? A lifting of the travel ban doesn't mean the embargo is over so forget all this talk of joint ventures...the Canadians, Spaniards, Italians will clean house along with the Cuban Military ...so what do we get out of doing Cuba this huge favor in boosting their economy and sustaining the regime?

Anonymous said...

How about lifting the travel ban and what remains of the economic embargo on a trial basis, say for six months, to see how the regime responds?

Doing this would remove the regime's alibi, which even today has some resonance with well-meaning people, especially outside of the island. At the same time, it establishes the fact that economic sanctions are a legitimate tool, under the right circumstances, and temporarily suspending the embargo/travel ban puts the ball firmly in the court of the Castro brothers, awaiting their response, with the potential for re-imposing sanction if the hermanos, as expected, offer nothing in response.

Antonio said...

I live in the US and have visited Cuba several times. In my opinion, I don't think that Cubans are ready for the crush of American tourists. I have read in several places that Cuba already has the lowest return rate of tourism in the Caribbean, and that is without the presence of Americans, who are in my opinion more demanding than Canadians and Europeans. There would probably be an initial rush of American tourists because of the "forbidden fruit syndrome" (my description) but that will temper off due to the quality.

I think that lifting the travel ban will go some way towards helping improve the quality of service to where some places like the Bahamas and Cancun are (I have spent some time in both places too).
I also think that only direct Yuma investment in the tourism industry will bring Cuba up to par. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

antonio

where did you read cuba has the lowest return rate for tourism? read the canadian reports and the return rate is exceptional. bring the americans to cuba and let the quality be raised if needed, but there's more to cuba than just that. and the first wave of americans wont be the typical ugly americans.

the cardinal, so why should cuba give anything back? it's like the kidnapper making demands of the hostage. really warped sense of reality.
you're right, the travel restrictions don't mean the end to the embargo, but boy will it make it a step closer.

Anonymous said...

Bootlicker, please keep making the argument that the Castro dictatorship doesn't have to lift a finger for the US to change its policy. That helps to ensure there will be no change in policy.

chingon

Antonio said...

The first time I heard about the low return rate was at a conference a few years ago. Please google the words "Cuba low tourism return rates" and the first few articles should give you an idea. Below are a few sentences I copied from one of the articles that came up.

"The number of European visitors fell from a high of 1,048,000 in 2005 to 909,000 in 2008. In contrast, Canadians have been sustaining Cuba’s tourism industry, growing 24 percent from 660,000 in 2007 to 818,000 in 2008, according to the National Statistics Office of Cuba. The island seems to have exhausted the supply of readily available tourists coming from traditional markets. Tourist arrivals have been decreasing from six of its seven top tourist supplier nations, with only its largest market, Canada, increasing over the past few years."

Anonymous said...

Val over at the Babalu blog quotes Phil Peters:

"It's Carlos Lage (for Cuba's next President)This is a time when Cuba's leadership moves toward generational change." ("Phil Peters, March, 2008)

I don't agree with Val on everything, Phil, but it looks like he hits the nail on the head regarding your cluelessness on the nature of Raul's "new dawn." Care to comment?