In March 2016, Barack Obama made a historic trip to Cuba, being the first US president to visit the country since 1928. President Obama’s visit marked the beginning of a new era of diplomatic relations between the two countries; the US embassy in Havana has been reopened and the US government has lifted a number of ordinances banning travel to Cuba, paving the way for American travellers to visit the country. Known for its colonial architectural style and invigorating culture, Cuba offers tropical paradise with palm fringed sandy beaches, crystal clear shallow lagoons, and diverse coral reefs. In the perspective of tourism, the natural beauty aims to compliment the country’s unique culture.
Havana, the country’s capital, may entice visitors with its historic buildings displaying soft shades of colour, vintage cars driving through the streets, dancers and art performers showcasing their craft. Arts are esteemed in Cuba and the authorities aim to support and encourage artists, dancers, and singers to reach their goals. Street art may be admired at every corner. When walking through Habana Vieja, the ancient part of Havana, visitors may see workshops of artists doing paintings, lithographs and screen-printing.
Cubans seem to value the simple things in life such as community, family and getting together with friends in their neighbourhoods, children playing on the streets and parks, in what may seem like a warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The locals aspire Cuba’s relations with the US may strengthen and attract new investments to the island, further improving their quality of life.
Cuban culture is a blend of different elements, with roots mainly In Spain and Africa, possibly more colourful. The Cuban music, perhaps one of the most admired and enjoyed aspects of life in Cuba, may be the origin of styles like salsa, rumba and mambo. The panorama of Havana aims to display ancient colonial edifices, which seem to come alive with the energy of their inhabitants. While architectural renovations may be required, it seems imperative any restoration projects respect the traditional Cuban style.
In addition to its cultural and historical appeal, Cuba aims to be a destination for health tourism attracting tourists mainly from Latin America and Europe due to its high levels of treatment quality. With the introduction of new flights from mainland US to Cuba, it may soon become easier to visit the country. American Airlines is the first major U.S. carrier to provide nonstop flights from Miami to 5 destinations in Cuba. Hotel industry leader Starwood announced a management contract with three top Havana hotels, including the Hotel Santana Isabel and Inglaterra. Starwood is embarking on an investment program to bring these properties to company standards.
Cruise liner Carnival has begun sailing in May between the US and Cuba. The island is served by Carnival’s Fathom brand, aiming to offer travellers the opportunity to learn more about the everyday lives of the Cuban people and their remarkable culture.
A country at crossroads, Cuba may be looking towards the future while mindful of its rich heritage to date. The future of the country may greatly depend on how the authorities and the people of Cuba best use the opportunities coming their way. This may also be the time for potential tourists to see the country at a historical moment and to experience unaltered Cuban traditions and character, before any major changes with impact on every aspect of life in the country occur.
How may Cuba best use its tourism potential to grow the economy?