Cuba Begins to Unite Private Enterprise, Tourism
HAVANA — Sep 27, 2014, 12:03 AM ET
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press
Tourists sit in a classic American car in Old Havana, Cuba, Friday,
Sept. 26, 2014. Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income,
along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from
relatives living abroad. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes) The Associated Press
Cuba’s state-run tourism industry is increasingly doing business with
the country’s new class of private entrepreneurs, trying to improve
quality of food and lodging while maintaining a grip on the sector’s
biggest sources of foreign exchange.
One of the country’s highest tourism officials provided new details on
the initiative in an interview with The Associated Press, saying two
dozen restaurants for tourists have been converted into worker-owned
cooperatives since January. Jose Manuel Bisbe, president of state tour
operator Havanatur, also said his firm was sending tourists to hundreds
of private bed-and-breakfasts instead of government hotels.
“The state must free itself from activities that aren’t decisive for the
economy and that experience is showing function better privately,” he
told the AP on Thursday. He said that some tourism-related businesses
like bus transport and large-scale hotels would remain in state hands.
Tourism is one of Cuba’s top four generators of income, along with
nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living
State-run restaurants for tourists and for Cubans have long suffered
from complaints about poor quality and widespread pilferage by employees
who resell food and supplies on the black market or take them for
personal use. Hundreds of private restaurants have sprung up around the
country since the launch of a limited economic liberalization four years
ago and generally offer food and customer service far superior to those
in government venues.
Cuba sees cooperatives as a middle ground between the communist model of
state ownership and the private enterprise that has been making inroads
into industries like restaurants and personal services under the reform
meant to spur badly needed growth.
State news agency Prensa Latina has reported that Cuba has 11,000
restaurants, most for Cubans, and 1,260 private establishments known as
“paladares,” which cater mostly to visitors and foreigners living in Cuba.
Official statistics are sparse in Cuba and Bisbe declined to provide
further details of the private enterprise initiative, including how many
restaurants were run wholly or partly by the state tourism sector. The
Ministry of Commerce also runs a large number of restaurants.
State news agency Cubadebate reported this week that 200 homeowners in
the lush Vinales valley had signed deals with state tour operators to
provide lodging for tourists.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein
Source: Cuba Begins to Unite Private Enterprise, Tourism – ABC News –