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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also called for an end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
More

Audit Finds US Housing Aid Program in Haiti Falls Short

Results show post-earthquake USAID program has delivered only a quarter of planned number of homes at nearly twice the budgeted cost
More

Mourning, Memories in Garcia Marquez's Languid Hometown

Nobel Prize-winning author's early years in Aracataca inspired characters, tales for major novel
More

Powerful Earthquake Rattles Mexico

US Geological Survey says quake measuring 7.5 on Richter scale, was centered in the western state of Guerrero, north of Acapulco beach resort
More

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support
More

Colombian Novelist Garcia Marquez Dies at 87

Author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982
More