Travel and Tourism - Cuba - November 2011
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There are few countries around the world that have as distinct an image as Cuba. The mosaic of dynamic historical events, rich cultural mixes and diverse tourism assets shapes the image of a country, which attracts curious and adventurous travellers from around the world. As a result of the US embargo, which has been in place for around 50 years, the development of some aspects of socio-economic life in Cuba has been on hold. This has, in a way, contributed to what Cuba is today and why it stands out on the global travel map. The limited technological advances and modern development have not only preserved valuable cultural and natural assets but have produced social and economic phenomena – recognisable elements of the authentic Cuba brand. The 1950s cars cruising on Cuban streets (still functioning thanks to the creative technical mastery of Cubans despite the lack of import of spare parts), the absence of fast-food brands and other commercial chains, and the recognisable images of its famous revolutionaries on billboards and walls, are all elements of the distinct image of Cuba.
Today Cuba balances between socialism and market economy, between modernity and old times, between the need to accelerate development and the romantic attachment to the way things are. Poverty and the need to adapt to the realities of the global economy are driving government reforms to make Cuba’s economy more effective and competitive. While the need for a more viable economy is obvious, there are fears that development might destroy some of the key elements that make Cuba as distinct and authentic as it is today. Many travellers attracted by Cuba’s unique image are making sure to visit before the end of the Castro era, which is expected to bring unpredictable change and the modernisation desired by many Cubans. After all, as author Tom Miller puts it in a New York Times article on vintage cars in Cuba, “Cubans love new American cars, not old ones, but the newest ones that they can get their hands on are 45 years old.”
This report looks at the following aspects of the travel and tourism market in Cuba:
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