Remember the song? "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair..."
On a more serious note, pack a towel, and your toiletries, if you are going to Cuba any time soon. This is according to the AP:
"The success of President Barack Obama's new Cuba policy depends partly on hotel hand towels.This may be a shock to most Americans, but not to those of us who've stayed in touch with family and friends in the island.
Not just hand towels, but working air conditioning, breakfast waffles and the hundreds of other amenities that American tourists will demand when they flood to Cuba in numbers that travel experts expect to double this year, thanks to the loosening of travel restrictions on Friday.
U.S.-based Cuba travel companies say there's simply no more room in the handful of top-end Cuban hotels that meet international standards. That means that if visitors come in numbers as great as expected, they will have to find lodging either in grim, lower-end state facilities or one of the most vibrant parts of Cuba's small, new private business sector: family-run guest houses that offer independent sources of private income to thousands of Cubans.
That scenario is exactly what Obama said he hopes to achieve. When he announced the policy on Dec. 17, the president said that the U.S. wants to be "a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous."
The first test of the new U.S. approach may come down to where new American travelers choose to lay their heads at night.
"A significant increase in U.S. travelers would overwhelm the system and overwhelm the availability of the Cubans to keep tabs and keep controls on these travelers," a U.S. official involved in the execution of the new policy told The Associated Press on Friday. "The hotels aren't going to be able to handle it. You're going to see a spillover into the private sector, which is a good thing."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to speak publicly about the new policy."
There are two problems:
1) Socialism. Frankly, the hotels in the old Soviet bloc were not much better. Just talk to anyone who stayed at a hotel in the USSR and learned that he or she was sharing a bathroom with everyone else on the floor.
2) The Cuban government has partnered with international companies to build hotels that cater exclusively to foreign visitors. Unfortunately, there aren't that many. They are not ready for a flood of Americans, specially all of the different budget levels. As I learned when I lived in Mexico, many Americans like to get out of the tourist traps and see the country for yourself. You can't do that in Cuba, because you don't have that medium-priced" hotel, or too many hotels with clean towels.
So here is my advice: don't go to Cuba! Don't put dollars in the hands of this corrupt regime. Wait until there is a real change in Cuba.
Force President Obama to negotiate changes before flooding the island with tourists, whose dollars will go to Castro Inc., not to the Cuban people.
Believe me: there are lots of dissidents in Cuba who would tell you the same thing!
P.S. You can hear my show (CantoTalk) or follow me on Twitter.
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