Cuba calling: US Tourist flood expected

OK, it's a bit too soon to start calling it the new 51st state (Puerto Rico, prepare to take a step back), but the United States' influence on its once politically-isolated island neighbour, Cuba, is set to grow substantially.

OK, it's a bit too soon to start calling it the new 51st state (Puerto Rico, prepare to take a step back), but the United States' influence on its once politically-isolated island neighbour, Cuba, is set to grow substantially.

The recent easing of diplomatic relations between the two ideologically opposed states, which saw a historic meeting between the countries presidents at a Panama summit, has put Cuba 'back on the map' for many ordinary US citizens.

This is not to say that it was ever off limits for them, but visiting the communist state wasn't a straightforward task due to the travel ban on going there enforced by Washington; a restriction that is officially still in place. However, with an increase in the areas where travel visas are permitted coupled with a 'who cares' attitude towards breaking the existing law, the numbers of American tourists flocking to Cuba is steadily rising.

And it's not just those from the US turning their attentions to Cuba; visitor numbers from Canada and Europe are increasing, too.
For holidaymakers searching for that authentic experience (who isn't these days?), the island has much to offer, thanks in no small part to its shunning of Western ideals over the last number of decades.

In many ways it's like stepping back in time; 1950s cars abound and the technology one comes to expect from the West is very often conspicuous by its absence. Throw in the fact that it is home to fine cigars, quality rums and pristine beaches and there's no wonder why it is one of the 'must see' destinations. This is more so the case when you add in the belief of many that the island will change irreversibly as it interacts more regularly with the 'outside' world, especially the USA. There's a feeling of 'see it now, before it's too late.'

Indeed one New York tour operator reportedly saw its bookings to Cuba jump by 250 per cent in March alone. Alongside this, charter flights to Havana from New Orleans and New York have begun and companies such as MasterCard and AirBnB have announced plans to operate on the island.

The Cuban government, although traditionally slow to change, is reacting to the influx with an airport expansion plan and new luxury hotels under construction.

Yet at times demand is outstripping supply. This has opened a new, lucrative market for some homeowners operating as bed and breakfasts after Raul Castro relaxed laws on private enterprise.

So while Cuba was never really closed for business, this new phase in its relationship with the West, nay the United States, seems very close to the idea of 'open it, and they will come'. What that means for the future of the communist state, well you probably have a fair idea.


Latinamerican Post | By Brendan Corrigan

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