HAVANA – A Havana historian noted on Tuesday the very interesting movement taking place in the Cuban capital, where locals are not only starting private businesses but finding a new way of life as the city approaches its 500th anniversary.
Historian Eusebio Leal spoke of the attractions of Havana, visited by 90 percent of the tourists who come to Cuba, at the SAHIC business forum, which this week brought together executives of more than 200 hotel chains from around the world with an interest in possible tourism investments in the Caribbean, but mainly on the island.
“What used to be a place where nobody went has suddenly become a beautiful city where, as new development and new government policies are introducing so much change, local residents have said: Let’s get with it, within the limits of the law let’s start a restaurant, let’s serve people,” said Leal, the chief promoter of Old Havana’s restoration.
By the end of 2016, more than half a million Cubans worked n the private sector, mostly in services such as “palates” or private restaurants, or by renting out rooms in private homes, above all in Havana’s historic midtown area, because it’s the place tourists want to see.
For the Havana historian, entrepreneurs within the rising Cuban private sector are leading “a movement that will be the big news as the city celebrates its 500th anniversary” two years from now.
Leal also pointed to the hotels and other tourist facilities being built in the capital, which, as the country’s main destination, has already crossed the threshold of 2 million foreign visitors so far this year.
“Today when you go toward Old Havana, you see huge construction cranes working on the vintage hotels...they’re being renovated one after another, even as people of the area enter a new and truly interesting way of life. I think that’s the main attraction here – the city and its people are both being reborn,” he said.
Meanwhile, after being held for the first time in the Caribbean, the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (SAHIC) ends Tuesday with a presentation of the prospects for future investment on the island, which has enjoyed a tourism boom over the past few years, and which in 2017 expects to break the record of some 4 million tourists that was set last year.