10/09/13 - Voice of America - Cuba Allows Tourism Industry to Hire Private Contractors
HAVANA Cuba has authorized its state-run tourism industry to contract
out lodgings, meals, excursions and other activities to private businesses
in a boost to a growing non-state sector.
While the government has allowed some state contracting to private
businesses since 2012, up until now the tourism industry was off limits.
Tourism is the country's largest industry, attracting 2.8 million visitors
in 2012 with revenues approaching $3 billion.
The new regulations, published on Wednesday in the official gazette,
authorize state-run tourism agencies to use the more than 5,000 bed and
breakfasts and 1,700 private restaurants now operating in the
communist-run country, as well as private entertainment and
Further, hotels and other tourism facilities can now contract with private
businesses to provide meals for workers, gardening and other services.
Cuba's tourism has been stuck in a 'state provides all' framework for
years, said Paul Webster Hare, former British ambassador to Cuba, who
currently lectures on international relations at Boston University.
As a service industry, small and imaginative often attracts tourists
better than the 'one size fits all,' which has been a feature of the way
the big Cuban state- and military- owned companies have run the sector,
Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over for his ailing brother Fidel in
2008, has opened up retail services to small entrepreneurs as part of a
larger reform effort aimed at modernizing a Soviet-style economy where the
state up until 2010 administered just about everything, down to shoe
Castro is encouraging private sector growth to create jobs for the 1
million employees he hopes to slash from bloated government payrolls over
the next few years. His goal is to strengthen Cuban communism to assure
There currently are more than 450,000 people operating or working in small
businesses, or they are self-employed, in the building trades,
transportation, entertainment and other sectors, as well as more than 200
State-run tourism agencies have been sounding out the owners of
restaurants and small lodgings throughout the year, and many, at least in
Havana, have expressed little interest, according to industry sources.
They point out that individuals visiting the Caribbean island already are
free to rent rooms and eat at private establishments.
Cuban economists say opening the tourism industry, however, is sure to be
viewed by some as a business opportunity.
During the tourism season the good restaurants and bed and breakfasts are
usually booked solid, without having to sign a contract with the state,
said one economist, wishing to remain anonymous.
But now, if you are thinking of venturing into the private sector, this
could be an opportunity to get started, he said.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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