Cubans Celebrate Access to Hotels; Will Timeshare Resorts Be Next?
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Every week since February 19, when Fidel Castro stepped down as Cuba’s president, news outlets have been filled with accounts of products and services coming back into the lives of the Cuban people.
Two weeks ago, Cubans were allowed to buy cell phones. Last week, microwave ovens, DVDs, electric bicycles, and pressure cookers became available. Many of the restrictions that Fidel Castro had spent a lifetime imposing on the people of Cuba have already fallen away in the few short months since his brother, Raul Castro, took office as Cuba’s president.
While most Cubans do not yet have the money to afford these luxury items, that too is changing as the government begins to provide better support for its farmers and lift some of the restrictions on manufacturing.
Are New Hotel and Timeshare Resorts on the Horizon for Cuba?
This week, the ban that prohibited Cuban citizens from staying in hotels was lifted. Cuban nationals, as of April 1, are permitted to stay in hotels or use hotel services like exercise rooms. These changes are long overdue and in time, should help springboard other, equally positive developments. But as the free world shares in welcoming the return of these basic rights to Cubans, what do these changes really mean for Cuba as a tourist destination?
Despite the removal of many restrictions, the economy of Cuba will have to heal considerably before most residents can afford to enjoy hotel stays at luxury resorts. It will take even longer before the country’s economic infrastructure will be able to support the development of timeshare resorts or vacation ownership property.
In the 1990’s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba made tentative steps toward developing tourism, by building or revamping hotels to attract visitors primarily from Europe and Canada. Currently Cuba has both hotels and all-inclusive resorts; some offering beachside relaxation while others showcase Cuba’s rich history. Several Canadian developers have tried in recent years to fund and build timeshare resorts in Cuba and with the recent change in government there, it is logical to expect that such projects could soon become reality.
Canadian Tourists, But Not Americans to Vacation in Cuba…Yet
Most US citizens find traveling to Cuba challenging because of the Trading with the Enemy Act that forbids US citizens from spending money in Cuba. Exemptions apply to journalists, government officials, researchers, and people attending conferences. Other US citizens, including those who have relatives in Cuba or professionals such as doctors, nurses, or educators, may also be able to obtain the documents necessary to travel between the US and Cuba. Click here to read the US Department of State’s full disclosure on who may travel to Cuba.
Some US citizens visit Cuba by first flying to other countries, and booking their travel, directly from that country to Cuba. Once there, Cuba imposes no restrictions on US spending; quite the opposite, as they are all too eager to receive tourist dollars from any part of the world.
Yes, timeshare resorts and new hotels may definitely be in Cuba’s future. But until US law changes, Americans may find that the closest they get to Cuban vacation ownership is a Key West timeshare where the signage at the water’s edge reads: “90 miles to Cuba.”