“I Can See a Bright Fu­ture for Cuba’s Tourism”

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - John Cabañas President Of C&t Charters Inc. - BY JOSE CAR­LOS DE SAN­TI­AGO PHOTO FERVAL

THIS U.S. EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR, AT THE HELM OF THE LEAD­ING COM­PANY AMONG THE EIGHT CHAR­TER AGEN­CIES THAT COVER THE AIR­LIFT BE­TWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND CUBA IN VIRTUE OF FAM­ILY VIS­ITS AND EX­CHANGES AU­THO­RIZED BY THE TWO NA­TIONS, FORE­SEES THAT HIS COM­PANY WILL START RUN­NING

17 WEEKLY FLIGHTS COME NEXT JUNE.

An­ces­try, a way of talk­ing, life and per­sona his­tory whip the idea of a Cuban cigar into Cabañas –his Cuban fam­ily set­tled down in Key West back in 15, where he was born in 192, from par­ents who were closely linked to the is­land na­tion and its in­de­pen­dence strug­gle.

In our long con­ver­sa­tion, he re­calls Fidel Cas­tro and warns the tremen­dous and pro­found re­spect he feels for him as he re­mem­bers the sup­port the revo­lu­tion­ary leader and his fol­low­ers re­ceived by his fam­ily in Key West dur­ing the up­ris­ing prepa­ra­tions against the Ful­gen­cio Batista regime.

“We all were mem­bers of the 26th of July Move­ment. My mother, to­gether with my el­der sis­ter and my fa­ther, are founders (on Amer­i­can soil), while I joined in March 1957,” the im­pre­sario told Ex­ce­len­cias in a his­toric re­cap of both his life and his close ties with revo­lu­tion­ary Cuba, where he lived and worked for 28 years since 1961.

He didn’t skip ref­er­ences to the San Car­los Club, a pa­tri­otic, teach­ing and apo­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion founded in 1871 that, un­der his fa­ther’s lead­er­ship, made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion back in the 1950s on Amer­i­can soil.

Mr. Cabañas got a de­gree in His­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Ha­vana, took post-grad­u­a­tion cour­ses on Psy­chol­ogy, Law and For­eign Trade, and worked at the Cuban Peo­ple Friend­ship In­sti­tute and the Cuban tele­vi­sion. In 1988, he went back to his home­land and be­came a busi­ness­man, first re­lated to the world of tele­vi­sion un­til 1991 “when I or­ga­nized and set up my own char­ter flight com­pany with a li­cense granted by the U.S. govern­ment and the au­tho­riza­tion I got from Ce­li­mar, Ha­vanatur, of land­ing rights in Cuba.”

Com­pet­i­tive ser­vices and qual­ity are the name of the game at C & T Char­ter Inc. Be­gin­ning in June, the com­pany will start op­er­at­ing 17 weekly flights. On the is­land na­tion’s po­ten­tials be­yond the realm of fam­ily travel, he says: “I be­lieve there’s a very bright fu­ture for Cuba. The Cuban peo­ple share the wealth achieved by the Rev­o­lu­tion, and that’s their ed­u­ca­tion, their health­care, their cul­ture and their na­tional iden­tity.

“Right now, we pro­vide all ser­vices for fam­i­lies, but we have re­quested a li­cense to the U.S. govern­ment and we’ve called it Pro­grama Pon­tis (Bridge Pro­gram), that will serve as a bridge for Amer­i­cans to ac­quire knowl­edge, and that will in­clude pro­grams on ar­chi­tec­ture, mu­sic and many other top­ics…”

This project has been jointly de­vel­oped with the Key West-cuba Her­itage In­sti­tute and the sup­port of aca­demi­cian En­rique Sosa, who has for­mu­lated, in the form of a theme trial, what he’s called Ten Ways of Get­ting to Cuba, fea­tur­ing a sim­i­lar number of pro­grams for peo­ple linked to sports, cin­ema, paint­ing, mu­sic, ecol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, to­bacco as a his­toric and iden­tity phe­nom­e­non, among other fields, to travel to Cuba, Mr. Cabañas ex­plains.

Run­ning out of time, we asked Mr. Cabañas to of­fer us a per­spec­tive of what the fu­ture holds for a com­pany like his or many other that might pop up and start mak­ing fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion trips. We won­der if those jour­neys will also be good for the re­dis­cov­ery of the coun­try. He says: “I own one of the whole­sale agen­cies in op­er­a­tion and it was named like that be­cause in­deed the per­spec­tive lies in the fact that Cuba should be treated as part of the Caribbean, tak­ing into ac­count that to­mor­row’s tourism will be one of mul­ti­des­ti­na­tion, so peo­ple trav­el­ing from the U.S. to Cuba could ei­ther go to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, the Ba­hamas, Ja­maica, Puerto Rico or any other Caribbean na­tion, and en­joy sev­eral cul­tures, lan­guages, na­tion­al­i­ties within the Caribbean frame­work.

“I can see a bright fu­ture for Cuba’s tourism and I think it’s go­ing to be­come a pow­er­ful in­dus­try. I hope Cubans in Florida will have the nec­es­sary vi­sion to un­der­stand that good re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries could ac­tu­ally bring huge ben­e­fits for both sides.”

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