Cuba’s isn’t a marketing concept invented by the cruise industry.
It’s a real place with a history and complexity. It’s probably the most interesting place in the world today because of how it impacts visitors. In terms of architecture, art, music and the warmth of the Cubans themselves, you’re not going to find another place that will leave a lasting memory like Cuba. On a fun and superficial level, riding around old Havana in an antique American car is a great experience.
On a deeper level, Cuba will challenge most travelers – visiting from modern cities – who associate newness with relevance and happiness with abundance.
Even more powerful than Cuba’s astounding travel and tourism growth potential is the presence of a rare phenomenon: reverse nostalgia. Reverse nostalgia is the feeling you get when you realize you are in a moment of time that you will later feel nostalgic for. In Cuba, this puts emotional demands on visitors and draws them into an active relationship with the place – much like a work of art does. It has the potential to remind us that we might be alive for reasons other than consumption.
Consider the two-sided coin of America’s style of travel. The beige vinyl siding side contains masses of cruise passengers but the local flavor – the quality side of the coin – is by definition too often ruined by the presence of those masses of tourists and the infrastructure that supports crass consumerism.
It’s hard to think of yourself as a true individual standing at Puerto Rico’s main cruise ship terminal as a throng of thousands line up for Subway sandwiches and doughnuts in a strip-mall style waterfront – an extended exhibition of Puerto Rico’s least attractive characteristics built to suit the needs of debt servicing capacity rather than to expose travelers to an encounter with the texture of an exotic island.
Cuba’s size and complex history – not to mention the draw for people looking to participate alongside the mystery as it emerges – may deliver both large volumes of tourists and wealthy five-star travelers in search of an authentic experience. It could take decades to spoil the unspoiledness millions of visitors will seek to experience. Cuba is like an endangered species possessing the DNA of fantastical growth – and Castro wants to offer the tasty last bite to the highest paying demographic he can find.