TOURISM AND REVOLUTION MUST GO HAND IN HAND
ByManuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the US government is working to reach a deal with Cuba by year’s end that would allow tourists to fly on scheduled commercial flights between the two countries.
The agreement would allow airlines to establish regular service between the U.S. and Cuba as early as December, marking the most significant expansion of bilateral tourism ties between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1950s, when Americans regularly traveled back and forth to Havana without the limitations imposed by Washington from the 1960s.
The Obama administration –says the Journal– is also exploring further steps to loosen travel restrictions for US citizens to the island nation despite the still in place unconstitutional decades-old ban imposed by Washington.
Only Congress can lift the U.S. travel and trade blockades imposed against Cuba following the popular triumph in the island. Nevertheless, says the Journal, Mr. Obama has executive authority to grant exceptions to them. He announced several last December –such as allowing Americans to use credit and debit cards in Cuba and expanding commercial sales and exports between the two countries.
The WSJ recalls that U.S. laws authorize citizens to travel to Cuba with special licenses only for specific purposes, including business trips, family visits or people-to-people cultural exchanges.
The negotiations are partly centering on how many flights a day would be permitted between the two countries and whether Cuba’s state-owned airline, Cubana de Aviación, can serve the U.S. The WSJ sources were not certain about this last issue.
Many U.S. airlines, including American Airlines and Jet Blue, are eager to serve Cuba and have been pushing regulators to authorize scheduled service.
Four shipping companies in Florida (90 miles from Cuba): United Americas Shipping Services, Havana Ferry Partners, United Caribbean Lines and Airline Brokers, announced receipt of US Treasury permission to operate ferries between the two countries, while noting that they still need additional permits including that from Havana.
The reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which culminated on August 14 with the official reopening of the US Embassy in Havana, has been one of the catalysts for the accelerated growth of visitor arrivals to the Caribbean country.
Between January and July of this year (2015), 88,996 people from the United states traveled to the island, despite the fact that the blockade does not allow them to do so as true tourists because Washington does not authorize them to visit beaches or other fun and recreation centers so they do “not bring their money to Castro “.
The rapprochement between the two countries has increased world interest in Cuba. The island in turn is developing different strategies to strengthen the tourism industry, improve the quality of hotel services and expand its capacity.
To attract foreign capital, the island has adopted a new Foreign Investment Act. Meanwhile, increasing ties between the private and state sectors in the Cuban economy, bring an important complement to meet the growing demand for rooms, restaurants and other services.
The Italian publication specializing in tourism issues in the Caribbean Travel Trade Caribbean (TTC) wonders in its latest issue if the “wave” of potential US tourists expected in Cuba would be good or bad for other Caribbean islands more dependent on the leisure industry.
Cuba, which continues its socialist project with the same drive as before, argues that the eventual normalization of its relations with the US will not damage the economies of tourism-dependent Caribbean countries.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association welcomed Cuba as an integral part of the Caribbean and called for the development of cooperation with Cuba in all aspects of tourism. It also called on governments of the region to adopt a new program for tourism development involving high-level discussions with the US and Cuban authorities with a view to developing a Tourism Initiative in the Caribbean Basin to promote in an “economically viable, secure and stable way” this industry in the region.
But Cuba’s tourism infrastructure will have to be strengthened before the full impact of “the wave” occurs in the industries of other Caribbean destinations. Cooperation between countries in the region will be the best antidote against the problem; and the Cuban revolution has demonstrated many times its ability to face great challenges.
September 12, 2015.