Monday, August 28, 2006

Tourism Cuba's Ticket to Success

Tourism Cuba's Ticket to Success

China, Spain provide models for how to maintain power during economic shifts
Alfredo Ascanio
Published 2006-08-28 12:36 (KST)

During the Venezuelan TV program called the "Touching Fund," experts
discussed the economic and political future of Cuba after Fidel Castro
resigns from power or dies.

An analyst said Cuba's first opening would be towards socialism, while
another analyst said with Castro's brother, Raul, in charge, it is
presumable that he would launch economic reforms similar to the Chinese
model. Nevertheless, no analyst considered the possibility of an
economic opening based on tourism, with the support of Europeans and
possibly the development of nickel by Chinese investors and petroleum by
Venezuelan interests.

Tourism saved Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism
in Eastern Europe. During the 1990s, Cuba developed its tourism with
investments from Spain, Italy, and Germany. It has been a popular
destination for more than 50 years.

Tourism has produced more dollars than the sugar cane export or tobacco.
Tourism promotions began in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1986, the United
States allowed Cuban residents in America to travel as tourists to Cuba.
In 1994, Cuba formed its Department of Tourism (MINTUR) to focus on this
industry. Hotel chains were created, such as the Rumbos, the PuertoSol,
the Cubanacan and the Gaviotas Tourism Group and established hotel
chains such as Great Caribbean and Horizons Hotels and Islazul also
arrived for business.

Today, the average of annual growth of tourists is 14 percent, with
about 2 million international tourists arriving each year, especially
from Italy, Spain, Germany, and France. Tourism became a main tool to
revive the economy of the island, and now makes up 17 percent of the
nation's total foreign earned income.

The trend shows that the opening of Cuba after Castro may include the
rapid development of tourism.

The experience of how the Chinese Communist Party merged with the
British capitalist zone Hong Kong in 1997, and kept it as a Special
Administrative Region, could be a model for other nations looking to
opening their doors to world markets. Cuba would need a phased approach
to opening its tourism market to develop the industry while maintaining
the country's communist ideology. An example of such a success is Spain
under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who was able to retain power
during the shift from an autarchic to a capitalist economic model based
on tourism after World War II.

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