Transport in Cuba
We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support in paying for servers. Thank you.
August 2015
« Jul   Sep »

Cuba’s tourism boom has many in remote areas worrying

Cuba’s tourism boom has many in remote areas worrying
Aug 11, 2015, Last Updated: 3:24 PM ET

SANTIAGO, Cuba — This 500-year-old city smells of fresh paint and varnish.

Residents stroll along a recently completed harbour promenade under
gleaming new streetlights, enjoying sea breezes while relaxing on newly
installed metal benches.

Missing are the tourists. As foreign visitors flood Havana and a select
group of other colonial cities and beach resorts, Cuba’s second-largest
city is suffering a tourist drought.

Santiago saw less than a tenth of the tourist traffic in Havana last
year and less than a 20th of the visitors to the beach resort of
Varadero even amid large-scale government investment in renovating the
city for its 500th anniversary this summer. Other Cuban cities are
seeing similarly stagnant visitor numbers despite the dramatic surge in
overall tourism set off by the announcement of detente between the U.S.
and Cuba.

That’s raising concerns that a rising tide of tourist dollars will leave
some areas of Cuba booming and others struggling against a backdrop of
broader economic stagnation.

“They’re promoting Havana and the centre of the country but they’ve
forgotten about Santiago,” said Gladys Domenech, who rents tourists a
room in her home in the historic centre that features a terrace with a
sweeping view of the Caribbean.

The city sits about 800 kilometres east of Havana on highways that
narrow outside the capital to horrifically rutted roads clogged with
horse carts, bicyclists and stray cows. The journey by road can last 15
hours, and far longer in Cuba’s notoriously unreliable and uncomfortable
inter-city buses. Train and domestic plane tickets are virtually
impossible to obtain without waiting hours in lines that may or may not
end in satisfaction. There are only three flights a week from the U.S.

Cruise ships provide a promising new potential source of visitors,
although dockings here remain relatively rare.

“It’s tough for those who go to Havana and want to come here,” said
Virgen Maria Jerez, owner of an elegant private restaurant near
Domenech’s home in central Santiago. “Transport is vital and we’re

Those who do reach Santiago find a city rich with history but hampered
by what visitors and residents alike call substandard accommodations,
few high-quality restaurants and a lack of fun things to do at night.
Cuban officials say Santiago has roughly 1,500 of Cuba’s 60,000 hotel
rooms, far fewer than it needs.

Santiago’s promoters lament that tourists are missing out on the city’s
rich Afro-Cuban culture, its meandering streets, colonial architecture
and its prized role as the home of Cuban musical genres such as trova
and son.

What’s more, it has a unique underwater park filled with seven ships
sunk during the Spanish-American War, accessible by small boat or a
scuba dive.

“It’s a treasure that we have to show off,” said Vicente Gonzalez, head
of Santiago’s Center for Cultural and Natural Underwater Heritage.

Along with the new oceanfront malecon and the restoration of homes in
the city’s historic centre, the Cuban government has built a new theatre
and an artisanal brewpub as part of a broader reconstruction and
improvement effort that began after Hurricane Sandy devastated the city
in 2012.

Another potential draw, particularly for American tourists, is the
memorial to Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who fought on the city’s
San Juan Hill in one of the most famous battles of the Spanish-American
War that freed Cuba from Spanish rule.

But virtually every tourist establishment in the city closes at 10 p.m.,
leaving the streets dark and silent.

Last year, Santiago had 297,918 visitor-days, an industry measure of the
number of tourists who arrived in the city multiplied by the number of
days each stayed. That was a 6 per cent rise over 2013, but the overall
number remains tiny compared to flow of tourists in Havana, which had
nearly 3 million visitor days, or Varadero with 7.8 million, according
to Jose Luis Perello, a professor of tourism at the University of Havana.

Some advocates of U.S. travel to Cuba says they are optimistic about
Santiago’s future, particularly since American tourists remain barred
from pure tourism and must participate mostly in cultural or educational
activities well-suited to historic sites like Santiago.

“The city and the region have much to offer. It’s just a question of
time before tourism in Santiago starts growing,” said Tom Popper, head
of Insight Cuba, one of the largest operators of U.S. tours to Cuba.

“U.S. tourists can go to any part of the Caribbean for the beaches, but
what they want to see is the Cuba that they haven’t been able to see for

Source: Cuba’s tourism boom has many in remote areas worrying –

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *