Omnipotent Tourism and Orbitz
The Corporate Beneficiaries of Travel to Cuba
BY MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE
The Miami Herald
June, 16th, 2009
If the United States lifted all restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba, what corporations would net the biggest gains? Two: Orbitz Worldwide of Chicago, Ill., and GAESA, S.A. of Havana.
Orbitz, the Internet travel agency, is ratcheting up its campaign to lift U.S. travel sanctions against Cuba. It has announced an on-line petition addressed to Congress and the Obama Administration, and to seduce signatories from the 14-million monthly visitors to its website, it is offering $100 coupons good for travel to Cuba if restrictions are lifted.
What's in it for Orbitz? Obviously there is an anticipated financial windfall from tourists booking vacations. Less obvious but more important, there are the good graces of the Castro brothers, who run Cuba. Their goodwill could make Orbitz the sole provider of travel services between the United States and Cuba, a monopoly worth millions.
Monopolies are not new to the Castros. Havanatur, a commercial entity of Cuba's Ministry of the Interior, has exclusive rights to arrange foreign travel and already contracts with a small cartel of agents in South Florida to arrange flights for Cuban Americans allowed to travel to the island. Obligingly the cartel allows the Castro regime to vet the travelers to exclude human-rights advocates and its outspoken critics.