GULLIVER has been wanting to write about the biggest story in American travel—the thaw in US-Cuban relations—for weeks now. Even if you don’t plan on travelling to Cuba, you might have noticed some changes already—updated airline route maps that include Havana, for instance. But this is a business travel blog, and it’s been hard to figure out how the policy changes will affect business travellers. Thankfully, Joe Sharkey, the dean of business travel writers, is on the case.
The news is what you might expect if you know a little bit about Cuba:
[W]ith a few exceptions represented by cultural activities … the business-travel market to the island remains limited “simply because there is very little business in Cuba,” said Michael Boyd, the president of Boyd Group International, an airline consulting firm.
Mr. Boyd is not impressed by the short-term potential for expanded travel to Cuba. “For one thing, there aren’t enough hotels, and the quality is questionable,” he said. Rigid Cuban government policies on private businesses deter the confidence necessary for major hotel-industry investment from abroad, he added.
You still can’t, of course, fly direct between America and Cuba on a commercial airliner. But as Mr Sharkey makes clear, the real issue for business travellers is whether you’d want to. Cuba’s economy is still so state-controlled that there’s just not that much private business to do there.
The real point of President Barack Obama’s move to open up relations is (slowly) to change that. This paper has long opposed the embargo, as we re-emphasised in a leader earlier this month:
Rather than ending the Castros’ rule, it has provided an evergreen excuse for their failures and so helped maintain them in power. The embargo kept Cuba out of international bodies such as the Organisation of American States, where other countries could have prodded the island towards greater openness. It put the United States at odds with most of its allies and nearly every other country in its hemisphere. It would be much better if the embargo were got rid of entirely, but its partial lifting is a step towards normality for the whole region
[T]he biggest prize should be the advance of democracy and open markets in Latin America. The Castros are not the only ones who will be discomfited by the loss of the American alibi. Venezuela leads a loose coalition of countries that uses defiance of the United States as an excuse for policies that stunt economic growth and democratic rights. It has long supported Cuba (and other Caribbean countries) with sales of oil at heavily subsidised prices. Even for robustly democratic countries like Brazil, the American bogeyman makes it easier to justify resistance to trade deals and to cosy up to uglier regimes.
In case you missed it, that’s the clear win here for business travellers: closer ties between America and Cuba could lead to closer ties between America and the rest of its Latin American neighbours. You may not be staying at the Habana Hilton anytime soon. But the easing of the American embargo might make you more likely to be staying at the Hotel Caracas or the Grand Hyatt São Paolo sometime in the near future.
Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
Powered by WPeMatico