News / Americas

Cuba Allows Tourism Industry to Hire Private Contractors

Tourists look at portraits of revolutionary leader Che Guevara at an artisans' fair in Havana, Oct. 8, 2013.
Tourists look at portraits of revolutionary leader Che Guevara at an artisans' fair in Havana, Oct. 8, 2013.
Reuters
Cuba has authorized its state-run tourism industry to contract out lodgings, meals, excursions and other activities to private businesses in a boost to a growing “non-state” sector.

While the government has allowed some state contracting to private businesses since 2012, up until now the tourism industry was off limits.

Tourism is the country's largest industry, attracting 2.8 million visitors in 2012 with revenues approaching $3 billion.

The new regulations, published on Wednesday in the official gazette, authorize state-run tourism agencies to use the more than 5,000 bed and breakfasts and 1,700 private restaurants now operating in the communist-run country, as well as private entertainment and transportation.

Further, hotels and other tourism facilities can now contract with private businesses to provide meals for workers, gardening and other services.

“Cuba's tourism has been stuck in a 'state provides all' framework for years,” said Paul Webster Hare, former British ambassador to Cuba, who currently lectures on international relations at Boston University.

“As a service industry, small and imaginative often attracts tourists better than the 'one size fits all,' which has been a feature of the way the big Cuban state- and military- owned companies have run the sector,” he said.

Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over for his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, has opened up retail services to small entrepreneurs as part of a larger reform effort aimed at modernizing a Soviet-style economy where the state up until 2010 administered just about everything, down to shoe shining.

Castro is encouraging private sector growth to create jobs for the 1 million employees he hopes to slash from bloated government payrolls over the next few years. His goal is to strengthen Cuban communism to assure its future.

There currently are more than 450,000 people operating or working in small businesses, or they are self-employed, in the building trades, transportation, entertainment and other sectors, as well as more than 200 cooperatives.

State-run tourism agencies have been sounding out the owners of restaurants and small lodgings throughout the year, and many, at least in Havana, have expressed little interest, according to industry sources. They point out that individuals visiting the Caribbean island already are free to rent rooms and eat at private establishments.

Cuban economists say opening the tourism industry, however, is sure to be viewed by some as a business opportunity.

“During the tourism season the good restaurants and bed and breakfasts are usually booked solid, without having to sign a contract with the state,” said one economist, wishing to remain anonymous.

“But now, if you are thinking of venturing into the private sector, this could be an opportunity to get started,” he said.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Video Havana Welcomes US Decision to Remove Cuba From Terror List

Move brings two Cold War adversaries step closer to re-establishing diplomatic relations that were severed more than 50 years ago
More

Video FIFA's Blatter Defiant About US Corruption Probe

Newly re-elected FIFA president questions timing of US corruption investigation, says he is victim of 'hate' on part of European soccer's governing body UEFA
More

Venezuela Blocks Former LatAm Presidents From Seeing Detained Leaders

Andres Pastrana of Colombia, Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia, both political conservatives, not allowed to meet opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and former Mayor Daniel Ceballos
More

Haiti Struggles to Stem Cholera as Rains Come Early

From January to April this year, 14,226 Haitians infected with cholera - triple the number of cases from the same period last year, with Port-au-Prince hardest hit
More

Cuba Not Off Hook, Despite Removal From US Terror List

Though it's off blacklist, Havana is not clear of all US embargoes and statutory restrictions
More

Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies in Canada

Vladimir Katriuk, 93, had denied allegations that he took part in killings of civilians in Soviet village of Khatyn, now part of Belarus
More