Cu­ba: A Country of Great Op­por­tu­ni­ties

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - Entrevista / Interview -


He tra­ve­lled to Cu­ba as a tou­rist for the first ti­me back in 1994. Sin­ce then, and still now, what enth­ra­lled him most we­re the peo­ple he came across as he was dri­ving in­land in a ren­ted car. He en­jo­yed the sun and the beach in Ca­yo Lar­go and Va­ra­de­ro, yet his mo­ti­va­tion had al­ready kic­ked in­to a hig­her gear: to ta­ke a clo­ser look at the country and ma­ke part of its his­tory and cul­tu­re his own.

Over twenty years la­ter, he came back to this is­land. This ti­me around, with a dif­fe­rent ro­le to ful­fill: as His Excellency Dr. An­tony Sto­kes, Ambassador of the Uni­ted King­dom of Great Britain and Nort­hern Ireland to Cu­ba. “It was spe­cial to come back he­re. I hadn't been able to forget the Cuban peo­ple, their cha­rac­ter, their hos­pi­ta­lity, the sin­ce­re friends­hip they of­fer you… That was the ca­se even in the midd­le of the spe­cial pe­riod, a ti­me of “night­ma­res”. Ho­we­ver, the Cuban peo­ple ne­ver lost their smi­les, their ge­ne­ro­sity. That's al­so been my ex­pe­rien­ce as a di­plo­mat. Sin­ce I know the peo­ple he­re, that's why my fee­lings about the fu­tu­re of Cu­ba are po­si­ti­ve.”

In your view, what we­re the rea­sons that prom­pted the se­lec­tion of the UK as the Guest Country of Ho­nor to FITCu­ba 2018?

“That's a ques­tion to ask the Mi­nistry of Tou­rism (MINTUR), but it's ob­vious that the in­crea­sing num­ber of Bri­tish tou­rists vi­si­ting Cu­ba could ha­ve been a fac­tor. The UK is Cu­ba's fourth lar­gest out­bound mar­ket and the num­ber of visitors on a yearly ba­sis is on the ri­se. As many as 194,815 Bri­tons vi­si­ted Cu­ba in 2016, and that num­ber jum­ped to 205,727 in 2017, a 5.6 per­cent growth. And that hap­pe­ned amid the te­rri­ble af­ter­math of hu­rri­ca­ne Ir­ma, which pla­yed ha­voc with many of the pla­ces Bri­tish tou­rists co­vet the most: the keys off the north coast of the Vi­lla Cla­ra and Cie­go de Avi­la pro­vin­ces, as well as in Guar­da­la­va­ca in Hol­guin. We must re­cog­ni­ze the ef­forts ma­de by the Cuban aut­ho­ri­ties to re­build the da­ma­ged in­fras­truc­tu­res in a pro­fes­sio­nal and ef­fi­cient way.”

Can you cha­rac­te­ri­ze the Bri­tish tou­rist? What do they come loo­king for?

“The­re are many in­ter­ests. Most of them opt for all-in­clu­si­ve tra­vel pac­ka­ges on the north coast. The­re are tou­rists who en­joy the sun,

es­ta­tal, sino que tam­bién es­tán las pro­pues­tas de ca­li­dad de las ca­sas par­ti­cu­la­res y de los res­tau­ran­tes pri­va­dos».

¿Qué es lo más atrac­ti­vo de Cu­ba pa­ra el Reino Uni­do des­de el pun­to de vis­ta de las in­ver­sio­nes?

«Cu­ba es un país de gran­des opor­tu­ni­da­des, lleno de per­so­nas in­te­li­gen­tes, ins­trui­das, crea­ti­vas y di­ná­mi­cas en su pen­sa­mien­to. Y eso es muy atra­yen­te, pues co­mo na­ción com­par­ti­mos al­gu­nos de esos mis­mos ras­gos. Esa crea­ti­vi­dad es­tá pro­fun­da­men­te ins­ta­la­da en el al­ma del cu­bano, lo cual cons­ti­tu­ye una in­vi­ta­ción a tra­ba­jar jun­tos. Hay mu­chos es­pa­cios en los cua­les la Is­la pue­de pro­gre­sar, ha­cer cre­cer su eco­no­mía y, por en­de, su in­fluen­cia –que ya es pro­fun­da a ni­vel in­ter­na­cio­nal. No­so­tros po­de­mos con­tri­buir a ese avan­ce.

«En el mun­do de la ener­gía, Cu­ba se ha pro­pues­to la me­ta de pro­du­cir pa­ra 2030 al­re­de­dor de un 25 % de ener­gía renovable: me­ta am­bi­cio­sa pe­ro po­si­ble si ex­plo­ta sus re­la­cio­nes con na­cio­nes ex­pe­ri­men­ta­das en ese cam­po, co­mo el Reino Uni­do. Un gran ejem­plo es la com­pa­ñía bri­tá­ni­ca Hi­ve Energy que es­tá cons­tru­yen­do su pri­me­ra plan­ta de bio­ma­sa ge­ne­ra­do­ra de 62 MW, cer­ca de Cie­go de Ávila, uti­li­zan­do de­ri­va­dos de la ca­ña de azú­car. De es­te mo­do se re­suel­ven dos pro­ble­mas: la ener­gía y la lim­pie­za del ma­ra­bú, esa plan­ta que ha “co­lo­ni­za­do” una bue­na par­te de las tie­rras pro­duc­ti­vas.

«Tam­bién du­ran­te es­te año el Bri­tish Coun­cil (BC) con­ti­nua­rá tra­ba­jan­do con el Mi­nis­te­rio de Edu­ca­ción Su­pe­rior (MES) pa­ra cul­mi­nar en el 2020 con el en­tre­na­mien­to a pro­fe­so­res de in­glés so­bre los con­te­ni­dos del Mar­co Co­mún de Re­fe­ren­cia Eu­ro­peo, y de es­te mo­do ga­ran­ti­zar que los egre­sa­dos uni­ver­si­ta­rios cuen­ten con un ni­vel B1 + de in­glés. El BC pro­se­gui­rá, ade­más, con su co­la­bo­ra­ción con el MES y el Mi­nis­te­rio de Edu­ca­ción (MINED) en el área de po­lí­ti­cas edu­ca­cio­na­les.

«Por cons­ti­tuir City of Lon­don una de las prin­ci­pa­les pla­zas fi­nan­cie­ras del mun­do, es­ta­mos ofre­cien­do ser­vi­cios pro­fe­sio­na­les fi­nan­cie­ros y ban­ca­rios a la Is­la. Mu­chos de los ban­cos, fon­dos de in­ver­sio­nes e ins­ti­tu­cio­nes fi­nan­cie­ras que City of Lon­don re­pre­sen­ta, pue­den in­ver­tir o apo­yar el desa­rro­llo de es­te sec­tor aquí, si el go­bierno cu­bano adop­ta po­lí­ti­cas que fa­vo­rez­can la in­ver­sión. La Em­ba­ja­da Bri­tá­ni­ca es­tá tra­ba­jan­do con el Ban­co Cen­tral de Cu­ba en pa­gos elec­tró­ni­cos, ad­mi­nis­tra­ción pú­bi­ca, com­pras, desa­rro­llo de mer­ca­dos fi­nan­cie­ros...».

¿Y en cuan­to al tu­ris­mo?

«El tu­ris­mo ge­ne­ra im­por­tan­tes re­cur­sos pa­ra am­bas par­tes, y es­pe­ro que en el fu­tu­ro po­da­mos ver más tu­ris­tas cu­ba­nos en el Reino Uni­do. Hay em­pre­sas bri­tá­ni­cas que de­sean in­ver­tir en el sec­tor y ayu­dar en la pues­ta en mar­cha de un tu­ris­mo de más al­to ni­vel, en­car­gán­do­se de apar­ta­men­tos de lu­jo pa­ra al­qui­ler aso­cia­dos a cam­pos de golf, por so­lo po­ner un ejem­plo. Se man­tie­nen las con­ver­sa­cio­nes con la con­tra­par­te cu­ba­na pa­ra ha­cer avan­zar es­te ti­po de opor­tu­ni­da­des». the breath­ta­king bea­ches, but the­re are ot­hers who come loo­king for broa­der ho­ri­zons. Cu­ba has an in­ter­es­ting re­cord in terms of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, so many are drawn to eco­tou­rism and or­nit­ho­lo­gi­cal tou­rism, that is, the chan­ce to watch the mi­gra­tion of birds. On the ot­her hand, ex­plo­ring the gas­tro­nomy is al­so a reason to tra­vel. What's more in­ter­es­ting for them to see how Cu­ba is chan­ging it's not just sta­te-run tou­rism any­mo­re, but al­so top-qua­lity of­fers ma­de by “ca­sas par­ti­cu­la­res” (pri­va­te hou­ses) and pri­va­te res­tau­rants.”

What's the top allu­re Cu­ba has for the UK as far as in­vest­ments are con­cer­ned?

“Cu­ba is a country of op­por­tu­ni­ties, tee­ming with smart, we­lle­du­ca­ted, crea­ti­ve and dy­na­mic-thinking peo­ple. And that's ap­pea­ling be­cau­se, as a na­tion, we sha­re that creativity so profoundly embedded in the soul of the Cuban peo­ple is an invitation to work to­get­her. The­re are many areas in which the country can ma­ke head­way, ma­ke its eco­nomy grow and the­re­fo­re en­han­ce its in­fluen­ce, which is al­ready deep in­ter­na­tio­nally. We can con­tri­bu­te to that ad­van­ce.”

“In the realm of energy, Cu­ba has set out to pro­du­ce roughly 25 of re­ne­wa­ble energy by 2030. That's an am­bi­tious goal, but it's at­tai­na­ble if the is­land ex­ploi­ted its ties with nations that ha­ve ex­pe­rien­ce in that field, such as the UK. A great exam­ple is the Bri­tish com­pany Ha­va­na Energy which is buil­ding Cu­ba's first bio­mass plant, a 62 MW ge­ne­ra­tor near Cie­go de Avi­la, using by-pro­ducts of su­gar ca­ne far­ming. That will tac­kle two pro­blems at the same ti­me: ge­ne­ra­te energy and get rid of the ma­ra­bou weed that has “co­lo­ni­zed” a good chunk of the is­land's cro­plands.

“Al­so in the cour­se of this year, the Bri­tish Coun­cil (BC) will con­ti­nue wor­king with the Mi­nistry of Hig­her Edu­ca­tion (MES is the Spa­nish acronym) to help train En­glish pro­fes­sors on the con­tents of the Com­mon Eu­ro­pean Framework of Re­fe­ren­ce, B1+. In ad­di­tion, the BC will con­ti­nue co­lla­bo­ra­ting with the MES and the Mi­nistry of Edu­ca­tion (MINED) on edu­ca­tio­nal po­li­cies.

“Sin­ce the City of Lon­don is no doubt one of the world's top fi­nan­cial en­cla­ves, we're of­fe­ring pro­fes­sio­nal fi­nan­cial and ban­king ser­vi­ces to the is­land. Many of the banks, in­vest­ment funds and ban­king ins­ti­tu­tions the City of Lon­don re­pre­sents could eit­her in­vest in or sup­port the development of this sec­tor he­re, if the Cuban go­vern­ment adopts in­vest­ment-friendly po­li­cies. The Bri­tish Em­bassy is wor­king with the Cen­tral Bank of Cu­ba on e-pay­ments, pu­blic ma­na­ge­ment, pur­cha­ses and the ad­van­ce of fi­nan­cial mar­kets.”

What about tou­rism?

“Tou­rism ge­ne­ra­tes ma­jor re­ve­nues for both coun­tries and I ho­pe we could see more Cuban tou­rists in the UK in the fu­tu­re. Bri­tish com­pa­nies want to in­vest in the sec­tor and help the is­land im­ple­ment a hig­her-le­vel tou­rism, with de­lu­xe apart­ments lin­ked to golf cour­ses, to men­tion one ins­tan­ce. Talks are un­der­way with Cuban coun­ter­parts in or­der to ad­van­ce tho­se kinds of bu­si­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

So­mos el cuar­to país en cuan­to al nú­me­ro de via­je­ros que arri­ba ca­da año, y esos nú­me­ros cre­cen

The UK is Cu­ba’s fourth lar­gest out­bound mar­ket and the num­ber of visitors on a yearly ba­sis is on the ri­se

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