Quantcast
Connect with us

Cuba’s private sector braces for US tourism boom

Published

on

Cuba’s nascent private sector is bracing for an influx of visitors should the US embargo ease, but many businesses in the communist country appear unprepared for a torrent of tourists.

Currently, most hotels, guest houses and restaurants in Cuba are state-owned, though the number of private enterprises has grown in recent years.

“We’re not prepared,” said restaurateur Enrique Nunez, speaking at Cuba’s most famous privately owned eatery, La Guarida, where “Strawberries and Chocolate” was filmed.

“Not in our ability to accommodate an increase in the clientele, nor in terms of the quality of what we have to offer,” he added.

But he said that would soon change.

ADVERTISEMENT

“People will wake up quickly and start to excel, start to offer what people want,” Nunez said, speaking at the restaurant in a crumbling Havana building, where photos of Uma Thurman, Benicio del Toro and Jack Nicholson hang on the walls.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama announced a historic breakthrough between Cuban-US relations, moving to revive diplomatic ties and ease a trade embargo, ending 50 years of hostility between the former Cold War foes.

The breakthrough could also mean an easing of existing travel restrictions.

ADVERTISEMENT

Every year, more than 90,000 US citizens travel to Cuba, despite restrictions on how much they can spend and on the Cuban products they can bring home.

That figure is likely to swell once the Obama administration eases restrictions on the 12 categories of people currently allowed to travel to Cuba, such as US-based relatives of residents of the island.

It will require an act of Congress — which will be Republican-dominated come January — to repeal the economic and travel embargo entirely.

ADVERTISEMENT

– Generous but demanding –

Cuba’s tourism minister estimates that a million additional tourists could come to the island annually, on top of the three million that already visit each year from all over the world.

But restaurant manager Jorge Fernandez said a sudden flood of visitors would create a challenge for the Cuban private sector.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Because although American tourists are very generous, they are very demanding,” he said, speaking at the privately owned La California restaurant in Old Havana.

“At the same time, it would be a big opportunity to strengthen a sector that survives with little income,” he said, noting that Cuban businesses have little access to wholesale markets and often have to pay high fees for equipment and raw material.

As part of the thaw, Obama authorized the sale and export of certain “goods and services” to the Cuban private sector, which could be a boon.

ADVERTISEMENT

The private sector is supported by 450,000 self-employed entrepreneurs, known as “cuentapropistas,” compared to five million civil service workers in a country of 11.1 million.

Nunez, speaking from a private dining space in La Guarida, said despite his reservations about the private sector’s capacity, the changes announced last week are “encouraging.”

He said the embargo “is not sustainable for the people of the United States, nor for the people of Cuba.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Cuba’s economy has been slowly opening since the fall of the Soviet Union, and private businesses — namely restaurants — started multiplying in 2008 after Raul Castro introduced economic reforms.

That was important for the tourism sector, which is Cuba’s third biggest earner, bringing in $2.5 billion annually.

Restaurant owner Carlos Marquez said most entrepreneurs in Cuba stand to benefit from the thawing of relations with Washington.

ADVERTISEMENT

He is hopeful that easing the embargo will only be a good thing for business at his La Commercial San Cristobal diner in downtown Havana.

“We’ll have to see how things go, but everything Obama said benefits us,” Marquez said.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].

Send confidential news tips to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

Trump ‘will get worse’ because he does not fear Democrats impeaching him: Chairwoman Maxine Waters

Published

on

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) predicted on Friday that President Donald Trump "will get worse" because of the lack of impeachment proceedings.

Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, was interviewed on MSNBC by Chris Hayes.

"I want to switch gears on the last question here, just to talk about what’s happened over the last several days with the president’s attacks on your colleagues, the chants of 'Send her Back,' which the president sort of very, very tepidly and meekly sort of disavowed yesterday, but then essentially reavowed today when given an opportunity to talk about it, he sort of reembraced his supporters who were chanting that," Hayes noted.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Fox News hires former Trump spokesman as Senior Vice President: report

Published

on

The revolving door between the White House and Fox News was spinning on Friday as a former spokesman for President Donald Trump was hired by Fox News.

"A bit of news: Raj Shah, the former spokesman in the White House, is joining Fox as a senior Vice President," Washington Post White House correspondent Josh Dawsey reported on Friday.

https://twitter.com/jdawsey1/status/1152374273522241537

After Hope Hicks left her job as White House communications director, she was hired to lead corporate communications for New Fox, the parent company of Fox News.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Here’s why President Trump’s explicit racism is an impeachable offense

Published

on

Without even waiting for former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify about President Donald Trump's obstruction of justice, Democrats are legally justified in acting now to impeach the president for his explicit racism, a civil rights activist argued on Friday.

Journalist and author Shaun King laid out his argument in a column published by The Intercept.

To make his argument, King explained the difference between implicit and explicit racism.

"Across the country, corporations and government agencies, including police departments, are offering a wave of what’s called 'implicit bias training.' The fundamental theory is that, in this country, otherwise well-meaning employees can be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic in ways that they may not really even be aware of," he explained. "It’s the notion that people unknowingly or unconsciously discriminate against others."

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

Join Me. Try Raw Story Investigates for $1. Invest in Journalism. Escape Ads.
close-image