Nostalgia vs. Globalisation. Cuba's Tourism Policy reaches a crossroads

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

81 Pages, Grade: 1,7



List of figures

List of abbreviationsIV

1 Introduction

2 History of Cuba - a short introduction
2.1 Revolution of 1959 and implementation of socialism
2.2 Cuba crises of the 1960´s and 1990´s
2.3 Cuba´s opening towards the western world

3 Cuba´s tourism policy in times of socialist rule
3.1 Attitude of the socialist regime towards tourism
3.2 Dependency of socialist Cuba on tourism
3.3 Involvement of local actors in tourism
3.4 Ecological aspects of Cuban tourism policy at that time
3.5 From the socialist orientation resulting restrictions in tourism

4 Impacts of opening up the country on tourism
4.1 General developments over the past years
4.2 Forms of tourism in Cuba and their meaning for the country
4.2.1 Beach holiday
4.2.2 Round trips
4.2.3 Cruise tourism
4.2.4 Alternative Forms of tourism
4.3 Chances vs. Risks
4.3.1 Risk of loss of identity - How to preserve the socialist attractions
4.3.2 Poverty vs. mass tourism - ways to involve the local population in tourism
4.3.3 Future projects and Destination Management strategies
4.3.4 Crime and sex tourism in Cuba - the negative effects of mass tourism
4.3.5 Handling with sociocultural differences between Cubans and tourists
4.4 Collaboration between western travel companies, government and population
4.5 Implementation of sustainable tourism vs. greed for profit

5 Changed perception of the destination Cuba in Germany
5.1 Meaning of the destination for German tourists and tour operators
5.2 How German tour operators could revise their portfolio for the destination Cuba

6 Future of the tourism in Cuba and recommendations for involved actors



Internet Sources

List of figures

Figure 1: The three pillars of sustainability

Figure 2: International tourism receipts of Cuba (1995 - 2013) in US Dollar

Figure 3: Cuban Exports by Product Shares, 1990

Figure 4: Cuban Exports by Product Shares, 2008

Figure 5: Contribution of tourism sector to Cuba´s whole employment in %

Figure 6: Development of tourism in Cuba and meaning for the country

Figure 7: Different types of travellers

Figure 8: “Sinus milieu model” - according to “sinus institute”

Figure 9: Socio-political survey in Cuba - differences between young and old

Figure 10: “The Cuban Paradox”

Figure 11: 2012 Crime Rate Index for Cuba - compared to New York and the USA

Figure 12: Development of German tourist numbers in Cuba from 2013-2015

List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

Cuba - an island full of contradictions: the people are poor, but happy; the socialist regime takes care of every Cuban, but puts the money into the own pockets while the people have nothing; Fidel Castro once named the tourism as “the evil we have to have”1 but in fact, tourism became the last resort for the economy of the whole country. Today, his brother Raul Castro is the face of the “Partido Comunista de Cuba” (PCC), the only party in the socialist country and also President of the country. But concerning the political orientation, nothing´s changed - at least de facto. In fact, the change of the political leadership from Fidel to Raul was a signal for the Western societies to start a new dialogue with the isolated country. After Barack Obama´s election as President in 2009, both nations showed willingness to approach each other. The slow but steady reconciliation of the two archenemies was noticed worldwide and led to a further increase of Cuba tourists, especially from Europe, but also more and more from the USA. Due to the great importance of the tourism sector for Cuba, this development seems to be absolutely positive. But the progressive mass tourism creates more and more problems due to a lacking adequate touristic infrastructure. Furthermore, the masses of foreign tourists menace the long-term preservation of Cuba´s traditions and identity.

In this thesis, I will analyse Cuba´s tourism policy of the past, of the present and possible developments in the future as well as the consequences for the involved actors: the local population, the tourists, the involved foreign and domestic travel companies and the political decision-makers. This thesis is subdivided into four chapters (2-5), plus this introduction and the concluding chapter 6.

In chapter 2, I will give a detailed overview about the rich history of Cuba, which is important to know because the socialist attitude is deep-rooted in Cuba and many political and socio-cultural circumstances can only be understood with the historical background.

In chapter 3, I will analyse Cuba´s tourism policy in times of the socialist rule. Thereby, it is important to know that Cuba has de facto further on a socialist leadership. But the term “socialist rule” means in this context the regency of Fidel Castro till 2006.

In chapter 4, I will analyse the consequences of Raul Castro´s approach with the western world for the Cuban tourism industry. I will demonstrate the meaning and the suitability of different forms of tourism in Cuba. Additionally, I will show the positive and negative effects of the more open tourism policy in Cuba, so to say the chances and risks for the different actors which are directly affected.

In chapter 5, I will check how far the changed tourism policy has an influence on the public perception of the destination Cuba for potential German tourists and I will analyse how German tour operators could improve their portfolio for Cuba holidays to face Cuba´s new attitude concerning their tourism policy.

2 History of Cuba - a short introduction

If we speak about the first historical mention of the island of Cuba, we have to handle with the name of Christopher Columbus in the same breath. During his circumnavigation, Columbus discovered Cuba in 1492. Some years later, the Spaniards occupied the island and founded a colony there. They bought many thousands of African slaves and forced them to work on their sugar cane plantations. During that period, Cuba was one of the biggest sugar cane producers worldwide. In 1868, the local population and more and more of the slaves started to revolt against the occupiers and fought for the independency of Cuba. But at first, they did not have enough manpower and weapons to chase away the Spaniards. Several attempts to beat them failed. But 30 years after the first aspirations, the United States of America and Spain started in 1898 a war against each other. The USA could defeat the Spanish troops and started for their part with an US-occupation of Cuba. Fortunately from the Cuban perspective, the USA didn´t show a great interest in Cuba so that four years later, the USA granted Cuba the right to be an independent country from now on. But the Americans did not give up their whole authority. They forced the new Cuban government to sign the so called “Platt amendment”, a document which regulated the circumstances of the ordered withdrawal of the US troops. So it was the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who annulated the validity of the “Platt amendment” in 1934. It was a gesture of good will within the framework of the so called “Good Neighbour Policy”, which should be the beginning and the fundament of a partnership relationship between the two countries.

After a calm period till 1952, the acting President Carlos Prio fell in disgrace due to corruption allegations. In March 1952, the former President Fulgencio Batista overturned him and led the country in a dictatorial reign. But very quickly it became apparent that Batista´s policy became more and more repressive and that democracy was not his first aim. The two biggest parties, the “Ortodoxos” and the “Autenticos” could not reach an agreement concerning a common strategy against Batista. From that moment on, especially young Cubans had lost the belief in the political actors and started to form the first revolutionary organisations in Cuba.

2.1 Revolution of 1959 and implementation of Socialism

“Without true equality among all Cubans, Republic and Revolution would be ill-fated lies”.2 This citation of Salvador Garcia Agüero, former signatory of the first constitution after the Revolution in 1959 can be understood as a warning to his compatriots that they should not believe in an automatically better future. With the escape of Batista in the early morning of January 1, 1959, revolutionary groups had laid a foundation for a better future. But it was important to arrange the political and social landscape bit by bit - to avoid a new dictatorship and above all - to create a Cuba for all people, irrelevant of which skin colour or origin they were.

Although there were many different organisations which fought for a new political system in Cuba, it was a matter of fact that Fidel Castro, leader of the Rebel army, will be the undisputed leader of the new Cuba. Immediately after the seizure of power, Fidel Castro´s first claim was to abolish the social and economic problems which resulted from the policy of the Batista regime. The most important plans were the promotion of economic diversification in Cuba, the elimination of the corrupt systems and to stop the chronic unemployment.3 First of all, Fidel Castro and his four closest allies Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Juan Almeida, Camilo Cienfuegos and Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro, represented the strong leading group the Cuban people wished for. But it was Fidel Castro who did not adhere to his own intentions and promises he gave during the revolutionary war in the past years. Many members of the old regime were executed or sentenced to a long imprisonment.

Moreover, Fidel Castro distanced himself from revolutionary ideas like democracy and the initialization of far-reaching social reforms4. Only some months after he became Prime Minister, the first collaborators turned against Castro because of his policy. In October 1959, Cienfuegos died under mysterious circumstances during a plane crash.

In the same month, one of the most important commander of Fidel Castro`s regime, Huber Matos, accused Castro of practising a more and more communist policy. For that reason, he resigned from his position. Shortly after that, Castro gave the instruction to capture Matos. He was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

Disappointed of the revolution and still discriminated due to their skin colour, especially Afro-Cuban people left the country and went to the USA. For the Castro regime, the development of communist structures like the nationalization of land area and companies as well as deeper political relations to countries like the Soviet Union, China and East Germany were more important to Castro than the social development in his country. Castro`s policy was not racist, but he supported neither the Afro-Cubans nor the other people in his poor country. But especially the Afro-Cubans which were enslaved and treated very bad over several centuries placed their hopes in Castro. That is the main reason why so many of them left Cuba in the late 1960´s and went to the USA.

As reaction on the expropriations and nationalization of US-companies without compensation payments, the USA started to mobilize exile Cubans which wanted to help the USA in a battle against the Castro regime. Furthermore, the USA stopped their economic aid payments and imposed a trade embargo in October 1960 in order to weaken the Cuban economy. After a further escalation of the situation between the two countries, US President Eisenhower decided to remove the last US citizens from the embassy in Havana and to stop the relationship to Cuba completely. This was in January 1961. Three months later, a group of 1500 soldiers, US forces as well as Cuban exiles started an invasion at the so called Bay of Pigs in the south of Cuba. But Castro expected that attack and could mobilize enough revolutionary soldiers to stop the invasion. 104 US soldiers lost their lives and the rest capitulated after five days and came in Cuban captivity. This victory against the powerful USA was the definite proof that the Cuban Revolution was a success and from that moment on, major parts of the Cubans supported Fidel Castro.

2.2 Cuba crises of the 1960´s and 1990´s

For sure, there were several periods since Castro`s seizure of power in 1959 for which the word crisis is suitable. Due to different political, economic and social interests during the past decades, Cuba´s inhabitants never had the feeling to live in a stable country.

But if we want to talk about the term “Cuba crises” with a historical background, there are two main crises which have to be mentioned. The first Cuba crisis took place in the 1960`s and resulted from political tensions between Cuba, the USA and the former Soviet Union. But first of all, it is important to know the facts about the prehistory: After the US trade embargo and the freezing of the aid payments to Cuba, the country needed quickly a powerful allied country which was willing to start trade relations with Cuba. In the meantime, the transformation of Cuba into a communist country with the nationalization of all private companies was so far advanced that only other communist countries would be a useful and conceivable partner for the Castro regime.

At the same time, the western world was confronted by an arms race between the two most powerful countries in the world: the USA and the former Soviet Union. The Cold War reigned over the world and both nations wanted to demonstrate their nuclear power. The world was on the brink of an atomic war and Cuba knew how to turn that situation to their advantage. They started political relations with the USSR and convinced them of the win-win-situation for both countries. Cuba gets a strong political partner which could help the country to introduce an efficient planned economy.5 Furthermore, the USSR could act as a protecting power for the small Cuba. On the other hand, the location of Cuba, only about 150 km to the south of Florida, was a huge strategic advantage for the USSR because they could build up their nuclear intermediate-range missiles in Cuba and menace the USA with a direct attack.

In August 1962, the USA had serious indications that the USSR started to set up more and more missiles along the northern coast of Cuba. Reconnaissance Flights gave cause for concern that the USSR also established nuclear missiles which could reach many important cities in the USA. The actual crisis started in October 1962. More and more security advisors of President John F. Kennedy requested a fast air strike to avert the danger of a nuclear attack of the USSR. But Kennedy tried everything to avoid an attack because he knew that this would be the beginning of an atomic war. The second way was a naval blockade in front of the Cuban coast. Kennedy tried to keep the escalation secret because he wanted to find a diplomatic solution and not the whole nation requesting a direct military attack. Kennedy could convince the Executive Committee of a naval blockade and the USA sent about 200 warships in front of the Cuban coastline. At the same day, October 22. , Kennedy contacted the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and invited him to return all the missiles back to the USSR. Khrushchev answered that the USSR will not accept a naval blockade but he also asserted that the missiles are only for a possible defence situation against a US attack. During the next days there were several situations where the world stood at the edge of an atomic war because there were some incidents like the launch of an US airplane above Cuba. But after some secret meetings between high-ranking representatives of both States as well as the agreement that the USA will remove missiles in Turkey, Khrushchev changed his course and agreed to return all the missiles from Cuba.6 Castro`s role during those very precarious days for the whole world was fortunately not very important. At the very beginning of the escalation, he made clear that he recommends to the USSR to attack the USA with atomic weapons if the USA should attack Cuba.7

From the early 1960`s till the late 1980`s, the socialist orientation of Cuba did not ensure prosperity for everyone but the Cuban population could live with a certain amount of social Security. In 1972, Cuba joined the COMECON, Council of mutual economic assistance. Cuba`s role in this association which regulated the economic responsibilities of their solely Socialist members was the export of raw materials. In addition, Cuba`s industry focussed mainly on the cultivation and exportation of sugar. Most Cubans had a job and the revolutionary plans to reduce social inequalities were promoted. Cuba also had a quite advanced education and health system compared to other Latin American countries.8

“Periodo especial en tiempo de paz” - that´s the harmless sounding expression for the second crisis in recent Cuban history. Different to the atomic crisis of the early 1960`s, this period was marked by huge economic problems in Cuba. After a stagnation of the economy in the late 1980`s, the collapse of the Soviet Union and therefore the break off of Cuba´s trading partners had the consequence that the economy tumbled into a deep depression. Cuba´s GDP declined by 40 % and there was no economic recovery in sight as long as the small country had no other trading partners. Cuba had a lot of sugar but no more customer for their main product. Furthermore, Cuba did not have enough foreign currencies to buy oil. This lack of the most important raw material led to the breakdown of large parts of Cuba´s industry and the mechanical agriculture what led to a food shortage that menaced the whole population. With the almost complete standstill of the industry and agriculture, many Cubans lost their jobs and whole families were plunged into a social crisis. Problems which were receded into the background over the past decades since the revolution like social differences and discrimination appeared again and the doubts of Castro´s population concerning the socialist system were very large.

Castro realized that his proud nation will go down without an economical rethinking. Unavoidably, he introduced different market-oriented measures to promote productivity and stimulate the economy. Among other measures, Castro legalized the using of U.S. Dollars in Cuba, he made it possible to work in different forms of self-employment, introduced an opening of the agricultural markets and last but not least, allowed foreign companies to realize projects and to invest in Cuba.9 He especially focussed on investors in the tourism sector because he saw the potential of a fast and quite easy development of this sector because the main product to attract western tourists was already existing: beaches and good climate conditions. After the first tourist joint venture in 1991, which was the opening of a hotel of the Sol Melia Group, more and more companies in the tourist sector discovered Cuba as an interesting island for new investments. The result was a sudden rise of tourist numbers in the early 1990´s. The gross revenues of the tourism sector increased from $243 million in 1990 to $1.3 billion in 1996.10 The agricultural sector was also restructured and instead of sugar, the acreages were used more and more for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and the cereal production to guarantee the nutrition of the population. Towards the end of the 1990´s, Cuba had built up trading relationships with different nations and with the election of Hugo Chavez as socialist Venezuelan President, Cuba focussed its relations on the oil-rich country and negotiated the purchase of oil from Venezuela to a preferential price. With this transition process, initiated by the Castro regime, the industry experienced a recovery and many Cubans could find a new employment.

2.3 Cuba´s opening towards the western world

With the new recovery of Cuba´s economy in the early 2000´s, it seemed as if the socialist country had realized that further ambitious developments of the own economic and social situation will be only possible if Cuba gives up its negative attitudes towards the western world. But it was obvious that an approach to the western world and especially to the USA would be a long way and that both nations will have to make concessions which will be criticized by many people in the own country. While the economic relations with investors from the USA and other countries were continuously growing, especially in the tourism sector, the political situation stayed tensed. After the resignation of Fidel Castro in 2006 and the takeover of his brother Raul Castro, people had new hope for a fast approach of the two countries. But Raul Castro made clear that he will continue the socialist policies of his brother.

In the subsequent years, there was particularly one cross fire that blocked a political approach of the two countries: the arrest of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor, in 2009 in Havana. Cuban authorities found communications equipment that Gross had with him and alleged that he wanted to destabilize the Cuban regime. Gross was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. This judgement led again to an aggravation of the US - Cuban relations.11 In December 2014, the two countries could agree on a prisoner exchange. The USA released five Cuban men which were in prison since the late 1990`s and Cuba released Alan Gross. This was the starting point of a new political relationship between the two archenemies. In May 2015, the USA made another important step towards Cuba and removed Cuba from the list of terror states. This was the most important condition for Raul Castro to intensify the conversations with the USA. Furthermore, both countries eased the travel restrictions with the main impact that the number of American tourists in Cuba increased by 36 % in 2015. Furthermore, Obama eased the trade restrictions as well what allows a continuous growing trade market between the countries. In April 2015, Obama and Castro came together for the first direct conversations since more than 50 years. The meeting of the two Presidents was more than only symbolic and both men denoted the conversations as constructive. Only 3 months later, in July 2015, Cuba´s embassy in Washington as well as the US embassy in Havana opened for the first time since the crisis in 1961. It can be assumed that the restrictions will be eased step by step and if Raul Castro will retreat in 2018 like already announced, the US congress could lift the embargo completely.

3 Cuba´s tourism policy in times of socialist rule

3.1 Attitude of the socialist regime towards tourism

Since the meaning and the handling of tourism in Cuba changed permanently over the past decades since the Cuban Revolution, it is very important to know the reasons for this development. This chapter will show that tourism in Cuba was always depending on the political situation in the country and interests of the regime. To clarify that tourism in Cuba was always closely linked to the interests of politics, it is necessary to start the review in the 1950´s.

After World War II, Cuba became an Eldorado for especially US American tourists which travelled to Cuba by plane or by cruise ship to visit the already existing tourist infrastructure which was established in the 1920´s and 1930´s to attract those tourists from the USA which suffered under the prohibition of the production and consumption of alcohol between 1919 and 1933. This infrastructure has been extended during the 1950´s with the result that the number of tourists increased from 158.000 in 1947 to 272.000 in 1957.12 The revenues from tourism increased from $20 million in 1953 to $43 million in 1957.13

Although the rose of foreign tourists in their country and the higher revenues due to the tourism sector were generally a good development because the tourists brought foreign money on the island, the benefit for the Cuban state was smaller than desired. Cuba´s tourist infrastructure implied many US companies which constructed artificial holiday paradises with large casino complexes, bars, clubs and huge hotel areas along the coast for their own citizens. As a result of that, most of the touristic stakeholders also came from the United States so that parts of the money did not stay in Cuba. Another problem was that the casinos not only attracted tourists which wanted to gamble a bit during their holidays, but also mafia structures which tried to assume the control. Inevitably, a parallel world with corrupt politicians, prostitution and violence led to dissatisfaction of the population and to the first pre-revolutionary movements.

After the successful Revolution in 1959 and the seizure of power of Fidel Castro, the number of tourists declined suddenly. From Castro´s perspective, tourism was connected too much with capitalism and in his opinion, this would lead to corruption and other negative developments like social inequality, racism or drug abuse.14 Directly after the Revolution, he promised his people to promote national tourism for everyone because all the Cubans should have the right to visit and discover the own country. After the nationalization of all tourism companies into state companies and the following US embargo, there were no more US tourists in Cuba and the main source of income of the past decades had dried up as a result of the socialist orientation of the new regime.

But Castro soon realized that his country was depending on the income from tourists which came to Cuba. For that reason, he rejected the idea to restrict the tourism sector only on national tourism and focussed on tourists from other socialist countries like the Soviet Union or East Germany as well as tourists from Western Europe and Canada. In 1985, about 240.000 foreign tourists visited Cuba, among them 50.000 from other socialist countries but also 80.000 from countries in Europe, especially from Spain, Germany and France.15

In the late 1980`s, the government intensified the efforts to attract more tourists by developing new tourism strategies and also by spending more money for incoming tourism. This was very important for the country because Cuba suffered under the end of the Soviet Union and tumbled directly into an economic crisis because the biggest customer for Cuba`s main product sugar disappeared from one day to the next. With the rising tourist numbers in the late 1980`s and 1990`s, Cuba could compensate at least a part of the missing revenues from the sugar and oil market. During the 1990`s and early 2000`s, Fidel Castro understood how important tourism is for Cuba. His government allowed more and more joint ventures of foreign companies what led to a continuous rise of tourist numbers till the end of his reign. A more detailed economic framework will be drawn in chapter 3.2.

Even if the measures of the mid and late 1980´s led to an increasing number of tourists, they were also the starting point for the growing social inequalities and racial problems in the country because the new boom of the tourism sector took place because of the permission of the so called joint ventures and often without the involvement of the local population. This problem will be deepened in chapter 3.3.

Many critics also did not agree with the new construction measures along the tourist areas and accused the regime of having ignored ecological aspects completely. This topic will be analysed in chapter 3.4. To analyse the following chapters, I will make use of the three pillars of sustainability, a model which helps to make the research subjects of the particular chapter measurable. The tree pillars are the economic sustainability, the socio-cultural sustainability and the ecological sustainability. The following figure visualizes the core issues of the three pillars:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The three pillars of sustainability16

3.2 Dependency of socialist Cuba on tourism

To analyse the importance of the tourism sector for the Cuban State till the demission of Fidel Castro in 2006, I will use the first pillar of sustainability, the economic sustainability. With the help of this indicator, the actual dependency on tourism during that period can be investigated based on the particular contents of the economic sustainability model which can be found in figure 1 at the end of chapter 3.1.

The economic sustainability covers primarily the questions about profitability for the several actors which are part of the whole tourism sector. The first question should be: “In which way did the tourism sector contribute to the economic growth and stability of Cuba?” After the rapid loss of tourists after the Revolution, tourism had only a very little incidence in the country. This situation remained till the mid 1980´s. After the tourist boom in the 1950´s, the whole sector collapsed and after the US-embargo in October 1960, international tourism in Cuba had almost disappeared. Fidel Castro wanted to eliminate foreign tourism in his country because he made the tourists responsible for the escalation with gambling, prostitution and racial conflicts in Cuba. For that reason, Cuba focussed on the trade with sugar and oil with the new socialist partners and did not invest in tourism. But with the economic crisis in the 1980´s, Castro understood that the tourism sector will be the only sector which can guarantee a stable economic situation for Cuba. With the first joint ventures and massive investments in the tourism sector, Castro made a 180° turn and inaugurated a new era in Cuba - the era of Cuba as a main tourist destination. With the foreign investors, the number of tourists increased suddenly and that development effected a strong economic growth which could confine the crisis and compensate the financial losses due to the collapse of the oil and sugar market partly.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: International tourism receipts of Cuba (1995-2013) in US Dollar17

Figure 2 shows that the revenues which result from foreign tourists in Cuba doubled during the last twelve years of Fidel Castro´s presidency. But was the increasing Tourism sector strong enough to have a real influence on the whole economic situation of the country? This question can be answered with a view on the development of Cuba´s GDP. The four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union had very negative impacts on Cuba´s economy. The GDP decreased by 33 % between 1990 and 1993.18 In 1994 and 1995, tourism numbers increased from 500.000 foreign guests to more than 1.000.000 in only two years. At the same time, the primary sources of income, sugar and oil, became less important. That shows the meaning of tourism in the mid 1990´s for the whole Cuban economy. The following two charts illustrate that the importance of Tourism for the Cuban economy in the years till Fidel Castro´s demission in 2008 increased tremendously while the cultivation of sugar dropped tended to zero.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Cuban Exports by Product Shares, 199019

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 4: Cuban Exports by Product Shares, 200820

This development shows that Cuba´s economy in the early 1990´s could really benefit from tourism.

But economic sustainability contains more than only economic growth. A very important point is the integration and information of local actors. The analysis of this so called broad public participation shows how profitable the enlargement of the tourism sector was when we speak about the local population. The first problem is the high number of joint venture tourism companies in the 1990´s. Those mostly US or Spanish companies often brought their own employees to Cuba. Cuba did not have enough well educated people to work for the foreign companies because most of the Cubans worked as farmers since the revolution. After the collapse of the sugar cane plantations, many of them had no jobs. But without the necessary qualifications and experiences in the Tourism and Hospitality sector, especially older Cubans were menaced by a long period of unemployment.

In the first years after the tourism boom in the 1990´s, the population realized that the new development did not directly bring new job opportunities for them and without the ancient trade partners, many products had to be imported from other countries what made them very expensive and not affordable for most of the Cubans. Many products had to be rationed. The Cuban population was used a certain standard of living and the fact that they could not maintain that life was a hard experience for the proud population which also led to social unrests.

Only after some years of sacrifices, the positive effect of Cuba´s tourism boom reached the population after political reforms of the Castro regime which should facilitate the access to other employment sectors, especially the tourism sector. More and more Cubans could find a job in the tourism sector and the foreign money brought back a certain standard of living. Towards the end of Fidel Castro´s regency, Cuba conquered the crisis and became one of the most developed countries in Latin America with a high level of education and health services for the own population. The literacy rate today is almost 100 % and projected to Great Britain´s population, Cuba has about four times as many doctors as the UK.21

Another aspect which brings an advantage for a large part of the population is the expansion of the touristic infrastructure. All over the island, new roads were built for the masses of tourists and also other touristic infrastructures like public transportation services, airports or new shopping malls were extended during the late 1990´s. But as often before in Cuban history, the regime tried to roll back the reforms and to make an access to the tourism market for everyone more difficult. For that reason, private companies of Cubans which wanted to benefit from Tourism in their country did not get a license and local owners of restaurants and bars had to fear exaggerated hygiene controls and an arbitrary closing.22 With those quarrels, Castro wanted to avoid too much capitalism in his country and guarantee that the revenues from the Tourism sector retain possession of the State. One of the most important points of the economic sustainability - the broad public participation - can therefore only be regarded in part as success.

Another important aspect of the economic sustainability of the tourism sector in a country is the ability of a cross-regional coordination of the whole sector as well as cross- sectoral coordination. From 1959 till the early 1990´s, this aspect can be neglected because foreign tourism during that period can also be neglected. With the opening of the market for mostly foreign joint venture companies, the government in Havana was compelled to invest also in smaller regions of the island which were left behind in the past. Modern hotel complexes sprang up like mushrooms and the foreign investors expected the suitable touristic infrastructure around their hotels. To plan and to realize the immense new projects all over the island, the recently founded Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) developed different strategies to accelerate the economic success through foreign projects. To subdivide the sum of measures which had to be taken in a quite short period, different institutions were founded.23 Although these institutions worked all over the island, there is a significant aspect that speaks against a well-functioning cross- regional coordination: All these institutions were managed by the Cuban Government and the regional institutions only took orders from the regime. Therefore it cannot be spoken of coordination - it has to be spoken of centralization which outsources parts of the Ministry of Tourism - but the government kept the power of decision in Havana.

Also interesting is the question if there was an existing cross-sectoral coordination. Instead of the collapse of almost all the previous industrial sectors, the rising tourism had positive effects on other sectors like agriculture, energy or communication sector. Those sectors could benefit from tourism which had a huge recovery effect. The tourism industry in Cuba created about 100.000 new jobs till the year 2000, but further 200.000 people found a new job in other sectors which have strong connections to the tourism market. Another number which shows the positive cross-sectoral effects is the amount of products which are produced for the tourism sector and the foreign tourists like food, furniture or other products. In 1990, only twelve percent of the sector´s purchases were produced from Cuban suppliers. In 2000, about 68 % came from Cuban sources.24 That means a growth rate of more than 560 % in only ten years.

Also important when we speak about economic sustainability is to have a balanced economy. That means: “A condition of finances in a country or nation in which both its imports and its exports are of an equal proportion.”25 In Cuba´s case, there was a quite balanced economy during the 1990´s because the rising number of foreign tourists could almost compensate the growing but still quite low imports compared to nowadays where Cuba´s deficit is four times bigger as it was in 1995. But much more interesting is the balance of incoming tourism and outgoing tourism because this shows that Cuba´s outgoing tourism is almost zero whereas incoming tourism is still booming. In a non- socialist country, this massive unbalance would be a very negative effect because it shows that the own population has not enough money to travel. In Cuba, a lack of money is one point but the more important point were the long consisting permissions for Cubans to leave their country. More about the development in the recent past will follow in chapter 4.

After having investigated the most significant points of the economic sustainability, I can sum up that Cuba in times of the Socialist regime only fulfilled a part of the criteria to have an economic sustainable tourism sector.


1 Cf. Spencer (2010), p.13

2 De La Fuente (2001), p.259

3 Cf. De La Fuente (2001), p. 259

4 Cf. arte (2007), Online source

5 Cf. Gey (1985), p. 44

6 Cf. US Department of State (2013), Online source

7 Cf. Lynch (1995), p. 74, Online source

8 Cf. Gey (1985), p. 131

9 Cf. De la Fuente (2001), p. 317

10 Cf. Peters (2002), p. 3, Online source.

11 Cf. Renwick (2015), Online source

12 Cf. Ammesdörfer (2006), p.53

13 Cf. Melian (2006), p.30

14 Cf. Obenholzner (2014), p.11

15 Cf. Ammesdörfer (2006), p.56

16 Cf. Rockenbauch (2014), p.262

17 Cf. (without year number), Online source

18 Cf. Perez-Lopéz, Mesa-Lago (2009), Online source

19 Cf. Ritter (2010), p.7

20 Cf. Ritter (2010), p.7

21 Cf. World Population Statistics (2014), Online source

22 Cf. Obenholzner (2010), p.27

23 Cf. Colantonio, Potter (2006), p.25

24 Cf. Peters (2002), p.2, Online source

25 (without year number), Online source

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Nostalgia vs. Globalisation. Cuba's Tourism Policy reaches a crossroads
University of Applied Sciences Saarbrücken  (Wirtschaftswissenschaften)
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Tourismus, Kuba, Sozialismus, Castro
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Raphael Lutz (Author), 2016, Nostalgia vs. Globalisation. Cuba's Tourism Policy reaches a crossroads, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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Title: Nostalgia vs. Globalisation. Cuba's Tourism Policy reaches a crossroads

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