Cuba at the Crossroads
Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration
Sunday, 11th November 2007
Cuba at the crossroads: The role of the United States hospitality industry in Cuban tourism initiatives is a debate over the prospects for United States hospitality interests to lead the way in thawing relations with Cuban interests, and is the featured case study in the November 2007 issue of Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly (CQ).

The articles outline ways that the United States hospitality industry can promote a thaw in relations and a renewal of knowledge and trust between the people of Cuba and the United States. At the moment, the authors report a deep distrust between the people of the two countries, despite the role of U.S. dollars as hard currency in Cuba.

Executive Summary: The longstanding U.S. embargo on travel to Cuba, has made life difficult for the Cuban people without achieving its stated purpose of regime change. Supported for many years by the erstwhile Soviet Union, Cuba turned to tourism as means for earning foreign exchange after the U.S.S.R. imploded.

Tourism has afforded a means for many Cubans to improve their lot, especially when their jobs allow them to collect U.S. dollars, which are a prized currency on the island. Operators from several nations are a part of Cuba's tourism industry, which is second-largest in the Caribbean and chiefly attracts travelers from Canada and Europe. Left out of the island's tourism ventures are U.S.-based chains and operators, who would benefit from being able to participate in Cuba's growing tourism industry.

Given the certainty that President Fidel Castro will not return to power, the moment is ripe for American tourist interests to seek their opportunity to do business in Cuba. A particular benefit of tourism joint ventures would be restoration of trust between the peoples of Cuba and America, a trust that has been impeded by political activities on the part of both governments.

By: Sergei Kruschchev, Tony L. Henthorne, and Michael S. LaTour. Volume 48, number 4

The debate, comprising four articles, is available at no charge from Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research at http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/quarterly/featured/execsummary.html?name=cubantourism.pdf

Commentaries on the article come from:

  • John M. Kirk, of Dalhousie University, who points out that the continuing embargo of  Cuba has had the chief effect of excluding U.S. interests from a potentially  lucrative market;
  • James Macaulay, of Mount Saint Vincent University, who cautions that even if the  embargo ends, U.S. hotel operators might find a hostile environment in its centrally  controlled economy, as well as a chilly reception by Cuba's hotel managers, whose  financial position would be threatened; and
  • Kenneth Backman, of Clemson University, who sees no welcome in Cuba for U.S operators,  especially since Cuba would want no additional leakage of tourism revenues and since  the embargo remains in place.
Sergei Khrushchev, Ph.D., is senior fellow in international studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University; Tony L. Henthorne, Ph.D., is chair of tourism management and professor of marketing at the University of Southern Mississippi; and Michael S. LaTour, Ph.D., is chair and professor of marketing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

About the Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the Center's 57 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu

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