Three reasons why Cuba “is in Fashion”
Three reasons why Cuba “is in Fashion”
Cuba “is in fashion”. After the historic 12/17, the streets of Havana have been walked by such celebrities as Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell and Rihanna; anchormen like Conan O´Brien; NBA stars and soccer clubs; politicians, mostly from the US, with different ideas; important entrepreneurs from several sectors and lots of tourists, with numbers that go 15 percent up the same period in 2014. Those figures already include nearly 61 thousand North American tourists that, according to the US Commerce Department, visited the Island during the first quarter of the year. How is this boom to be understood? PanamericanWorld proposes at least three approaches.
Cuba: An open country
The economic transformations boosted by the administration of Raul Castro, the implementation of a migratory reform and the talks established with the United States and the European Union have helped improve Cuba’s image overseas.
In economic terms, the number of private businesses has exponentially grown and, nowadays, over 500 thousand people hold “self-employed worker” licenses; moreover, some 340 cooperatives have been created, with a system similar to small and middle-sized businesses. 88 percent of them are related to such sectors as commerce, gastronomy and services.
The new foreign investment law coming into effect was another important step. The authorities have admitted that they need at least eight billion dollars in terms of foreign investment over the next years and, in order to get them, they have launched a portfolio made up of 246 projects, in 11 sectors of the economy. The highest bet has been placed on Mariel Special Development Area and its Container Terminal. The Government hopes these measures can boost the economic growth, which has been set in 4 percent this year in a country that, in 2014, barely had 1.3 percent growth of the GDP.
On the other hand, the migratory reform, which was implemented in 2013, has given over 200 thousand Cuban citizens the opportunity travel abroad. Some of them have traveled several times.
All of these steps taken by Havana have been applauded by the international community. Without these actions, it would have been difficult to imagine the developments that took place on December 17, 2014, a date that has been recorded by history as the official beginning of the talks to reestablish diplomatic relations and, subsequently, in a future that doesn’t seem to be that close, normalize the relations between Cuba and the United States.
Cuba: A Country beyond Sun, Beach
The travel industry is one of the most important sectors for the Cuban economy. 2014 witnessed the first time the three-million-visitor barrier was surpassed, which brought about incomes over 2.500 million dollars. Outstanding hotel chains, from Meliá, Warwick to Blue Diamond, have already open facilities in the country or they are planning to do it this year. Cuba has traditionally been penciled in as a “sun and beach” destination, but for many people visiting more than Havana goes beyond enjoying warm temperatures and spectacular sands of Varadero or Guardalavaca.
Meeting the people —there is a growing number of self-employed workers that rent houses and apartments, and they even work with Airbnb, a US company— is an element highlighted by many visitors as they are amazed by the cordiality of the Cuban people. This reality is complemented by the possibility of traveling to a destination that seems to be frozen in time, since it hasn’t been penetrated by major brands, there are no extravagant neon signs, the streets are crowded by cars that were manufactured back in the 1940s and 50s, and Internet is a luxury just a few people can afford.
“I want to go there now, before it changes”, is a phrase many travelers repeat when they are asked the reason why they decided to visit Cuba. Although the Blockade applied by Washington against Havana for over half a century still stands, certain US economic groups are working so as to reduce its effect. In a long-term scenario of normalization of relations, many people fear that the cities could be “flooded” by McDonald´s; but that’s not a concern for the Cuban people.
Cuba: A Safe Country
While violence rates in several Latin American regions have shown a disturbing increase, the situation in Cuba is completely different. A strict penal code, rigorous control on firearms, combined with high professional qualification —100 percent of literacy— of the citizens have strengthen Cuba’s image as an extremely safe country, where people can walk the streets late at night without being robbed.
Rihanna visited several places in Old Havana, Carmelo Anthony tasted the Habanos, Paris Hilton had her photograph taken with Fidel Castro’s oldest son, Conan O´Brien recorded his show at the Cuban capital city, civil rights activist Joe Madison broadcasted his live show for Sirius XM Radio — the first US national station with a live program from Cuba in over half a century— and the list of North American congressmen and senators that have traveled to the Island over the first months of 2015 is huge. Furthermore, Havana was also visited by the Presidents of France and Turkey, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Holland, the chief of diplomacy of the European Union, the governor of New York, and even the former head of the Spanish Government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. It was hard to imagine this scenario seven months ago.
The visits of celebrities and politicians will probably continue; while the figures of tourists will certainly reach historic records. Cuba “is in fashion”. Let’s just hope that these (re) unions help bring down stereotypes that still surround this Caribbean archipelago.