Cuba tourism still a work in progress

Posted: 02-Feb-16 11:12

While President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba have opened up a wealth of new travel opportunities, the reality is visiting the country is still far from a five-star experience.

Cuba tourism still a work in progress

There's no denying it – tourism in Cuba is thriving of late.

With roughly 90,000 Americans visiting the island nation in 2014, according to "CBS This Morning" that number soared some 60% to 150,000 by the end of 2015; and a further avalanche of tourism is expected should travel restrictions ultimately be lifted between the two countries.

However, while more and more people are seeing Cuba as a viable holiday destination since formal diplomatic relations between the country and America were restored in 2014, the fact remains that when it comes to currency exchange and five-star tourist service, Cuba still has a long way to go.

Though Americans can now travel to Cuba providing they meet one of the 12 criteria required for passage, visiting the country certainly comes with its own unique quirks and difficulties – particularly when it comes to paying for things, as American credit and debit cards are naturally not accepted.

Visitors from the States must therefore carry cash with them, but many are finding they receive a poorer exchange rate for US dollars than they are for Euros or Canadian dollars. As such, converting money twice has become increasingly popular, though the saving may not justify the extra effort.

Similarly, those expecting five-star luxury and a wealth of accommodation from their visit to Cuba are likely to be disappointed at present. Cuba is currently evolving as a travel destination and, having been isolated from America for 50 years, is not yet equipped to deal with an influx of visitors.

With a ferry and regular airline service between Cuba and America expected to be established later this year, there is no doubt that better hotels and restaurants will be needed – but as ever there is a balance that needs to be struck between improving facilities and retaining the island's character.

The fear is that increased tourism could see a US fast food franchise or coffee shop opened on every street corner, but thankfully such visions of Cuba are a long way off. For the time being at least, this unspoilt country will remain a quirky destination for those looking to travel off the beaten track.


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