Cuba’s Sustainable Tourism Opportunity

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Following the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a great new tourism opportunity is about to unfold. As the interest of Americans grows in exploring this pristine Caribbean destination, it will face an invasion in the form of new cruise line stops, new commercial flights from the U.S., and the development of hotels and other tourism infrastructure.

However, to ensure sustainable tourism development in Cuba, it is critically important to address challenges such as cruise traffic, coastal occupation and overfishing. The country needs infrastructure to handle the large number of tourists who will be arriving in ports and marinas from both cruise ships and private yachts.

According to Dr. Salinas, a University of Havana tourism faculty expert, the two key challenges to develop sustainable tourism in Cuba are to create funding mechanisms to rapidly improve and build needed infrastructure, and to develop business models that will provide the people of Cuba both a living wage and the opportunity to occasionally enjoy the Cuban tourism resources that they provide for others.

Building new infrastructure, if done sustainably, will go a long way toward providing the economy development that will allow Cubans to participate in this new resource development.

Cuba does have many challenges and it also has many gifts that other tourism destinations around the world might do well to examine. Some of the notable gifts include a deliberate policy promoting sustainable tourism, clean and pedestrian friendly streets, emphasis on local food, people who are interested in and working to protect and conserve natural resources, and friendly citizens to welcome guests.

In 1997, the Cuban government specifically defined sustainable tourism in a new law. According to this law, the focus is on eco-tourism as a way to leverage Cuba’s rich natural heritage consisting of six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, six Ramsar sites, and nine World Heritage Sites.

Old Havana is a UNESCO world heritage site and its two square mile area is accessed primarily by walking. The lack of fast food restaurants in the region means that people are more likely to experience local food. Ninety percent of the city’s produce in Havana comes from local urban farms and gardens.

These are all strengths that, if kept intact and protected, will draw tourists to the unique Caribbean experience unlike many other tourist destinations. There is much for other destinations to learn from the way Havana has developed.

Source: The Huffington Post

Image Credit: Flickr via Es.mond