Since returning from La Isla, I’ve enjoyed continuing to research Cuban culture and tourism. Earier this evening I met up with two friends—one was a Cuban travel guide who led one of my past expeditions. The other was a participant on that same trip a year ago. She has returned twice to Cuba since then. She spent the last couple of weeks traveling around Cuba by herself. Cuba is one of the few countries where a single female visitor can travel around, reasonably expecting very few problems. We had a great evening speculating about the future of Cuba in the next few years.
On this trip I’ve observed and learned that the number of tourists visiting Cuba is steadily increasing. The prices of hotels, tours, rental cars, etc, are going up 15-20% a year. There is increased demand from travelers from Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia, Central/South America and elsewhere. There are more Americans visiting Cuba each year, but the overall percentage is still very small (with the exception of Cuban-Americans who frequently return to see their families).
It is quite evident that foreign investment is being used to upgrade the infrastructure in Old Havana and in other tourist areas around the country. There is a marked increase in scaffolding around many buildings, from 400-year-old forts to the Capital Building that was completed in 1929.
At this rate, in six years, when Havana celebrates its 500th anniversary as a functioning capital, I believe it will be a most beautiful and spectacular city.
It’s Sunday evening. I’m scheduled to leave Havana tomorrow afternoon. After traveling through Cancun and Phoenix, I expect to land at SFO tomorrow evening. This should be a record shortest trip between Havana and California—about 12 hours. I’m looking forward to returning to Cuba in the spring with my groups of travelers. It’s always fun watching their expressions as we travel around the country. And the best part of our expeditions has always been meeting with locals in our people-to-people programs. I can hardly wait!