For the majority of us, Cuba and the United States of America have had tense relations, so much so that even traveling to Cuba was strictly prohibited.
This created a certain mystery around the country that is located so close to our own. Cuba, despite being incredibly close to Florida, was a place that nobody had the ability to travel to – that is, up until recently. For more than half a century Cuba and US relations have been cold – they are now hot but where are we going to sleep? It’s something we may have all over looked.
Outgoing President Obama removed the embargo from Cuba, a momentous occasion for both countries. This past May a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Santa Clara was the first commercial flight between the United States of America and Cuba in more than fifty years. It has brought on a new era of American tourism in the previously banned country of Cuba.
For those of you who are interested in visiting Cuba (and we are booking our tickets), there are many ways in which you can justify going. Some of these include visiting relatives, taking part in academic programs, or participating in journalistic or religious activities.
There will be six airline carriers that will offer one hundred and ten flights each day to nine different cities in Cuba. This excessive availability is truly remarkable considering how long Cuba was blacklisted from.
Canadians and Europeans have been able to visit Cuba for years and have been taking advantage of that; now Americans will have that same ability. It is expected that American tourism will grow to be about 1.5 million. While this is an exciting prospect for both the American tourists who get to experience something new as well as for the Cuban tourist industry, it does raise several questions.
For us, one of the first and most obvious questions is that Cuba may not be ready for the influx of travelers to their country. The country only has 60,000 hotel rooms and most of them are already full of visitors from other countries.
This just highlights how unprepared the country is for increased tourism. In addition to the lack of available rooms, to host all of the tourists that would want to come, a lot of the amenities such as Wi-Fi, bathrooms, transportation, and even simple things to us like the credit card machines, need to be updated.
Another thing many people probably did not think about, but is a telling sign, is that the first flight from the United States of America was to Santa Clara and not Havana. This shows that the Cuban government is splitting the flights between nine airports all over the country because there is not one hub that can take on the increased air traffic that will occur as a result of increased American tourism.
Since Obama restored diplomatic relations in 2014 there have been increased numbers of cruise ships docking in Cuban ports, but the main difference between this and people who will fly in is that the cruise ships are mostly self-sufficient – people can eat and sleep on the boat and do not need to rely on the basic amenities on land.
People who fly to Cuba will need to find food and lodging within the country; this could be a problem as it seems as though there may be a situation soon enough where the supply will not nearly be enough for the demand that the new influx of tourism will bring.
— Engage Cuba (@Engage_Cuba) November 7, 2016
Luckily, Airbnb is helping out a bit as it now has about eight thousand listings, easing the strain on the hotel industry. There are enough places for people who are visiting to stay for the time being. It is remarkable to see just how much hotel availability has increased. When the company first came to Cuba in April of 2015, there were only one thousand listings up. The increased demand has certainly served to increase supply. As you can see below, you can stay at some great places for very little money.
Another question that is raised is what will the increased amount of American citizens mean for the country itself. As has happened with many other nations where Americans have traveled to, many people are wondering if there will be an increase in the amount of Americanized places that will pop up, such as food chains and other American staple.
The reason for this is that often when visitors arrive, they will often stay, invest and buy property. With that they will bring with them various elements of their own home culture and as a result there could certainly be a larger American influence in Cuba.
However, many people say that a more immediate concern is the fact that tourists’ money will end up in the pockets of the military through government-run hotels and restaurants.
People are saying that American tourists should hope to have an influence on Cuban society, both politically and culturally, and not just go there as tourists, see all the sites and give money to the government. Many people are pointing out that anything that can be done to improve the lives of just the average Cuban citizen would be immensely helpful and could really change lives, Mashable reported.
The opening of Cuban borders to American citizens is certainly something that is a very exciting prospect. But tourists who are going there should be mindful of the potential effects that they can have on the small country, both positive and negative, and look to make the best out of the experience for everyone involved.
For us it is on the list, just to see all of those classic cars and we are sure the smart money will be investing in the hotel property boom that will surely follow. But one thing for sure, it is going to be a great adventure.