Saturday, April 11, 2009
Cuba opens up to tourists—Hawaii, watch out
by Larry Geller
Havana is crawling with Americans these days.
Young tourists stalk the rum-laced bars and plan a night out dancing. Art patrons hurry off to inspect the first major exhibition of U.S. artists in a quarter-century. Cuban-born Americans, loaded with gifts, visit family in a home long ago abandoned.
What travel ban?
"What are all these people doing here?" Jay Seldin, a fine-art photographer from Montclair, N.J., wondered as he sat in the lobby of a fancy hotel on the edge of Old Havana. "You don't feel like it's taboo."
A new government in Washington is moving to ease decades of travel restrictions to Cuba, in what many predict would be the first step in a far-reaching rapprochement between the two countries after nearly half a century of hostilities. [Los Angeles Times, American tourists invade Cuba, 4/11/2009]
I wrote about this almost a year ago in After Fidel, will Cuba become the new Hawaii? [check out the classy, reasonably-priced hotels] and mentioned a couple of times that Hawaii had better think about innovation in tourism rather than innovation in high-tech.
The Los Angeles Times article described a St. Patrick’s Day parade—yes, in Havana. The video is below. The Cubans could probably do a reasonable hula festival if they wanted to.
Cuba could be the next Hawaii. Our state government should think about this before it actually happens.
President Obama yesterday loosened travel and financial restrictions on ties to Cuba, a policy shift that advocates say signals the beginning of the end of a decades-long, Cold War-era relationship with the communist nation.
In a series of directives that White House officials said would encourage democracy by directly exposing Cubans to American culture, the president lifted longstanding restrictions on Cuban-Americans, allowing them to visit the island whenever they like and send unlimited amounts of cash to relatives there. [Boston Globe, Obama loosens limits on Cuba, 4/14/2009]
It's interesting. I was just studying the Japanese travel trends over the past few months, and the only place that is seeing large growth numbers in Japanese tourists is South Korea. So, the Japanese are looking to travel much shorter distances nowadays. I would say the Mainland, esp. South will be looking to do the same with Cuba. The whole paradigm is shifting for Hawaii, but the elected officials don't understand or accept it yet.
Japan and Korea have been enemies for so long, and Japan continued to discriminate against even its citizens of Korean ancestry up until recent years. This is a very welcome and predictable development. The two countries have much in common. Besides, everyone likes the Korean tv programs.
Someone asked me today what Cuba offers that Hawaii doesn't--plenty, mostly good hotels and food at low cost, and lots more, but one very special thing we can't get anywhere in the USA--cheap quality medical care.
So maybe it will be possible to book two weeks at a luxurious hotel and have your gall bladder out all for less than either a vacation in Hawaii or an operation in the States.
Oh, and cigars, let's not forget the cigars.
Plus cheap sex and that being 'safe'. People with HIV and Aids are imprisoned. Most girls and women are slim because of the lack of too much food, junk food, sugary sodas and lots of walking. Of course prices will go up fast because so far the Canadians, Spanish, Germans and Italians have all the fun. Religion is pretty much purged and most belief in their own customized version of SAnteria & Catholicsm. People are fairly honest and the country will take off to the same destiny it had in 1959 when the revolution happened: It will turn quickly again into the whorehouse and gambling parlor the USA was running then with help of the Mafia.
No worries about Hawaii- Cuba is on the East Coast and a far way from LA & SF. Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, and the Bahamas are the ones who are really, really afraid to lose their tourist dollars.
My tip: go and see before the coast line will be build up and the reefs are still pristine.