Almost five years ago I wrote a piece for this here blog predicting what would happen if the US unilaterally changed course on Cuba policy. Very soon you will be amazed by my ability to see the future. Am I psychic? Hardly. I’m awake and paying attention.
Visions of a post-embargo Cuba
By Henry Louis Gomez, on February 25, 2010, at 10:38 am
It seems that the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is the constant thread of the narrative here at Babalu Blog and wherever the issue of Cuba and its dictatorship is discussed. It feels like every day someone new comes along and says, “well it hasn’t worked in fifty years so isn’t time to try something new?” The purpose of this post is not to discuss the origins or intent of the embargo, we’ve discussed that ad nauseam, but rather to look into our crystal ball and see what a post-embargo Cuba would look like without the regime first making any significant changes to its economic and political systems. In other words, giving the castro brothers exactly what they have been asking for since the Soviet Union collapsed.
The first implication of lifting the embargo is that Cuba will be legally open to U.S. tourists for the first time in half a century. Now it’s interesting to ponder the fact that the castro regime’s creation myth begins with Cuba as a tourist playground for wealthy Americans who frolicked on Cuba’s beaches and gambled at tables of Cuba’s casinos while a dictator oppressed the Cuban people during the 1950s. Certainly it was not U.S. tourists that “liberated” Cuba from Batista. But now somehow American tourists possess some magical power to bring about change, at least that’s what embargo opponents would have you believe.
So what would a Cuba full of American tourists look like? Not too different than Cuba today. How can I say that with such certainty? Well because Cuba plays host to more than 2.3 million international tourists annually today, far more than ever went to Cuba during the 50s. The fact is that hotel capacity is currently limited to about 2.5 million visitors per year so the influx of American tourists will only increase the total number of visitors marginally. What it will do however is drive the price of hotel room nights up as demand temporarily outstrips supply.
So you’ll have a few more tourists visiting Cuba with all of them paying a premium to do it. What will they do there? Well certainly they’ll be staying at all-inclusive resorts like this one where the employees are selected by the regime and paid a fixed wage of roughly $20 a month by law. They’ll also be taking “cultural tours” like this one and enjoying the Jet Skiis and motorboats. They’ll be photographing all of the pre-castro landmarks (because nobody ever comes back from Cuba showing off their snapshots of Soviet Era apartment blocks) and getting drunk. The point here is that all of this already taking place yet the much ballyhooed people-to-people exchanges have not resulted in any significant change in the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people.
Additionally, American tourists will find Cuba’s resorts and hotels to be substandard when compared with other Caribbean destinations. At least that’s what Canadian and European tourists have found. They shouldn’t be surprised that facilities are not maintained and service is shoddy, after all it is a communist dictatorship.
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