MIAMI – A group of thirty-something Cubans who relocated to Miami six years ago have launched a Web site known as “Tour Republic” that connects travelers to the Caribbean island with experienced urban guides, some of whom even offer car transportation.
“Tour Republic is not a travel agency, but rather a ‘marketplace’ similar to Airbnb, although they do it with lodging,” the company’s director and founder, Enmanuel Tirado, told EFE in an interview.
Tirado and his partners, who spent more than a year building the site (www.tourepublic.com), offer a range of tourist experiences and activities for an average price of $100.
Rather than tourist packages, Tour Republic specializes in activities of short duration offered by experienced Cuban guides, who take tourists to dance classes, provide them with intra-city transport and even offer history lessons.
Tirado said the Web site was a wonderful tool for those who arrive in Cuba by cruise ship because it helps them avoid inexperienced guides who offer their services on the street.
He said the roughly 20 guides available via Tour Republic, whose initial focus is on tourists from Canada, had been working in this business for many years.
Tirado and his partners decided to launch the site in the wake of the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba under former President Barack Obama.
He acknowledged, however, that President Donald Trump’s much harsher stance toward the Communist-ruled island and pledge to review his predecessor’s policies created uncertainty.
“If some measure comes that represents a setback in the United States’ relations with Cuba, we’ll be affected. Not just us, but any American company that has business there,” Tirado said.
Even though travel to Cuba for tourist activities is still off-limits for US citizens, the island’s Tourism Ministry announced this month that the number of people arriving from that country for other reasons, including family visits and official business of the US government, rose by 18 percent in the first quarter of 2017.