Since about 1997 one of the only things that has kept Cuba from collapsing economically has been the tourist trade (that and oil subsidies from Venezuela which were reduced after Caesar Chavez died). Even so, due to the U.S. embargo the total amount of tourism has not been enough to make ends meet.
Since January 1, travel restrictions for U.S. citizens have relaxed until there almost aren’t any, and those still in place can easily be circumvented. The result is that tens of thousands of Americans are flooding into a country that doesn’t have enough legal rooms to accommodate them.
The problem is exacerbated because the government controls the tourist industry. Imagine if our Congress delegated the authority to regulate all travel and room assignments in NYC to a handful of bureaucrats using Windows XP, 300 baud modems, and an Internet system that has rolling blackouts. That’s what’s happening in Cuba.
The simple solution would be to restrict entrance visas to control the flow. The opposite has occurred. Anybody who can get there by plane, boat, or inner tube is issued a visa, even if there is no place for them to stay.
If you’re going to travel to Cuba at this time in history you must be flexible. Things will change. Things won’t always go easy. You may be bumped from your hotel. You may be stuck for hours in the airport. Your scheduled bus may not show up. Your tux might not come back from the cleaners. Anything that can go wrong may go wrong.
Those of you who have traveled with me have heard me say there are no problems, only solutions. If you are not able to embrace this attitude, then you might want to wait until things settle down. By my estimation that should be when the embargo is officially lifted and major American hospitality companies such as Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, etc. take over from the government – and they will within five to ten years – at which time Cuba will have become just another Caribbean theme park (it’s already happening).
If you are able to travel with me I will do my best to lead you on an authentic Cuban photo tour that interacts with Cuba and Cubans while that interaction is still available. If you travel on your own then just remember to go with the flow.