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Sun, sand and socialism

What the tourist industry reveals about Cuba

The revolutionary economy is neither efficient nor fun

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Readers' comments

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guest-ssniloi

The Ludicrous exchane rate system provides a golden opportunity for officials to make vast profits "round tripping" and thereby draining much needed foreign exchange reserves. No wonder the country's finances are in such a mess. Cuba will have to make some hard choices if it is to depart from the current hybrid state/private sector/black market economy and develop a sustainable functioning economy that will lift the majority of its people out of poverty.

DG Reid

Eventually, supply and demand will adjust in Cuba. Right now, there is a ‘novelty’ factor drawing tourist to the island. Cuba’s real problem is that they have no infrastructure (thank you, Fidel). This takes decades to establish, and can only occur after property rights are protected. This means no confiscatory taxes nor draconian regulation. Will it happen? Look at Russia. Not much hope there.
They should follow the Chinese model. Partition a part of the country to operate free of the heavy hand of government. Use that as a seed to regrow the rest of the country.

boisdulac

I think sometimes the ideas of our dear TE writers interfere a little too much with their reasoning. Of course, part of what attracts the tourists to Cuba must be its "authenticity". Of course, seeing lots of Nike and Starbucks shops around, while clearly a sign of progress and probably a positive thing for the locals (though in the specific case of the two companies cited, this could be argued), would greatly diminish the uniqueness of the place, and therefore its attraction to tourists. So it is not clear to me how the thesis of the article would contribute to the stated objective of increasing tourist appeal / revenues.
Then there are the basic laws of supply and demand, which amazingly our economics experts manage to forget (willingly, I am inclined to assume) from time to time: if the seaside hotels in Cuba manage to bill 5-star prices for below-average service, it is simply because they can afford it: people keep coming.
Would tourism be still applicable in the ideal, globalized world of TE wet dreams, or would all cities look so much the same that it would be useless to move around?

Langosta

American-owned Puerto Rico, with the same climate and geography, is next door to Cuba, but it is "off the radar" of American tourists. More may want to go to Cuba due to family relations and because of the novelty. I've noticed that in the last 20 years mainland Americans have stopped going to Hawaii, and nowadays prefer the Caribbean, whose destinations are direct, one-or-two hour flights from the East Coast and Midwest instead of a 20-hour flight to Hawaii, with layovers . Cuba, being a newly opened tourist market in the Caribbean, should do a fine business.
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Our friends in Canada go there precisely because the island hasn't been westernized with cookie-cutter hotel chains. According to them it's no great bargain pricewise, so they go for the ambiance. Plenty of adventuresome Americans I know have expressed an interest in going too. A Cuban-American invited our family to accompany her to Cuba on Spring Break, which I did not know Cuba celebrated. I don't know that I'd want to support their Commie government with my tourist dollars, but plenty of Americans won't care about that.

Polar Resident in reply to Langosta

We Canadians go to Cuba because it is cheap ! Florida and the upscale Caribbean is the preferred spot, but is pricey in US dollars. Getting out of Winnipeg in a January of -30 C to Cuba means being ignorant of Castro , penny pinching and caring not a hoot about " ambiance".

Langosta in reply to Polar Resident

I know a fellow in Cochrane, Ontario, who goes to Cuba on a prepaid vacation plan every winter, where he pays one fee up front, and doesn't have to pay anything else after that. I know these plans are popular in Britain and Canada, so maybe that's why he likes it. He goes to the part opposite Havana, somewhere around Gitmo, I guess. I have heard from American friends that Cuba is expensive, but perhaps they are not savvy enough to shop for the prepaid vacation packages. They also probably hang out in the most expensive hotel ripoffs in Havana instead of going out into the country where prices are more reasonable.

Andino en el Caribe

"But Cuba still earns less than half as many tourist dollars as the Dominican Republic, a similar-sized but less famous tropical neighbour"
Less famous? I am not sure.
At least equally famous: Both have the same colony history in spaniard time; In cuba Fidel Castro, in DR Rafael Leonidas Trujillo; beauty beaches in Atlantic ocean and Caribean sea; only one party: Comunist in Cuba, PLD en DR; Cuba and DR had been invaded and taken many times in XX century by USA; the two countries pushed out the Gringos: Cuba 1959 and DR 1965; Cuba has Son, DR has Merengue and Bachata. And the most important for my experience there: cubans and dominicans live with big problems but happy.

less famous? well...of course...
Cuba has Son : Salsa's direct progenitor,
Mambo ie. Damaso Perez Prado's ''Mambo number 5!''
Chachachá ie. Nat King Cole's ''el Bodeguero'' ,
Guaracha: fusioned into Salsa, see Gran Combo de PR
Rumba, Guaguanco ie. Yoruba Andabo, Muñequitos Matanza (Grammy nominees and Latin Grammy winners)
Bolero: See Luis Miguel about it...
Trova: Silvio Rdguez, Pablo Milanés etc.
Castro is the XXth century (much to my dismay), Trujillo is not.
Only chess world champion of hispanic america: Jose Raul Capablanca
3 times Olympic heavyweight boxing champion: Teofilo Stevenson, 4 times Olympic heavyweight boxing champion Felix Savon
High jump record in place: Javier Sotomayor
Carlos Finlay, discoverer of the yellow fever transmitter
3 Cervantes Literature Prize winner... and Cuba's beaches are way better than those of DR...

Dear guest-ajnasoien, thanks for share your comments with us.

I insist in a draw.

Please note:

1- DR has Meregue, Bachata, Perico Ripiao. In Cuba there was Caito, Laito and Rogelio’s Sonora Matancera with his unforgettable singers: Bienvenido Granda, Celio Ganzález (the best for me), Celia Cruz, Daniel Santos (Boricua), Yayo el Indio (Boricua), Alberto Beltran (dominican), Nelson Pinedo (colombian), Leo Marini (argentinean), Toña La Negra (mexican), Víctor Piñero (venezuelan) and many more all very good ones; DR has the seconds best: Juan Luis Guerra meregue and bachata singer and Eduardo Brito a lyric singer (by the way: in Europe Mr. Brito presented himself as a cuban artist!)

2- Trujillo started his government in 1930 and was killed in 1961, then Joaquín Balaguer, Trujillo efficient supporter, continued as a little dictator in a very violence government until 1978, with a short period out of power between 1963 and 1965. Castros started in 1959 until today.

3- DR has his golden Olympic athletes: Feliz Sánchez (athletics), Lugelín Santos (athletics), Feliz Díaz (boxing), Pedro Nolasco (boxing) and Yulis Mercedes (taekwondo). DR has the best baseball player in the Caribean as: Juan Marichal (Coopers town Hall), Pedro Martínez (Coopers town hall), Alou brothers, Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Robinson Canó, David Ortiz The Big Papi and so on.

4- DR has high level writers too, as Cuba has: Pedro Mir a poet and professor Juan Bosh a story teller and politician.

And finally: Las Aguilas bay beach in DR south is the most beautiful scenery that I have seen in my life, fortunately it is out of tourist industry now and it wins over any cuban beach.

Polar Resident

The Castros and their ilk cared not a fig for the Cuban people and the people need to rise up and throw off their poverty for the people regime, such as the Venezuelans are beginning too. If Castro Junior and the Party really cared about the people they would allow a free vote and opposition parties-then Cuba can really change and I bet 75 % of the non brainwashed people want that too.

Sydney57

What is the purpose of the United States embargo?

Sydney57 in reply to Mike Hoy

Guys, you just cannot accept that Cuba is an independent state, not your province. From their point of view, one of the purposes of their revolution was to stop you from "thumbing" your noses at them. Cuban commies are also not happy that you maintain an expansionist and dominating capitalist state just 90 miles away from them.

The key is that Cuba and the US each is an independent state!

The embargo achieved nothing, except unnecessary suffering of Cubans. It is illegal, counter-productive, and immoral as a form of collective punishment.

Larslarson

Sun ,sea and sex (payed). Cuba is back to its old self, pre castro. Even the gangsers are there, just that they wear olive garb nowadays. A rather a good deal for not too regarding tourists.

Juan uslar

For us Venezuelans this is unfortunately all too familiar...this is how real socialism looks like... The Brookings Institution has it wrong by supposing this (Cuba) regime capable of self-redress: when everything else (like living off Russians or Venezuelans) fails... a "special period" ensues...By the same token the Obama administration made a great mistake by granting them economic leeway (by turning unwittingly their nationals into the next financial supporters of the Castros), in the vane hope that an influx of money and tourists would promote political change... The Cuban regime has done what it has always done: fleece the people, be it Cuban or foreign.