December 16, 2015 marked an important day in the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. On this date, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that U.S. airlines could restore commercial service to the island nation beginning sometime in 2016. This week, major U.S. air carriers are expected to release their applications for valuable airport slots in ten Cuban cities including Havana. There are a total of 110 slots available meaning that U.S. travel to Cuba will usher in a new era of tourism prosperity for a nation that has not seen regular American guests since the early 1960’s. While select airline charter service resumed in the early 1990’s, this lifted travel restriction will ensure that any and all who wish to visit Cuba are free to do so.
The youngest Americans are among the most eager to travel to Cuba and explore a land that as of now remains free of being “Americanized”. Young travelers are excited about the possibilities of visiting a place that is relatively untouched by U.S. guests. Cuba is nation lost in time and because it remains governed under Communism, certain everyday familiarities to American tourists will not be present. This means everyday essentials such as access to Wi-Fi and the use of credit cards may be restricted only adding to the appeal of adventure seekers.
Millennial tourism is all about disrupting the norm. This generation is part of a group that takes pride in seeking out unusual, creative and cost-effective vacations. They are also a group that is not totally dedicated to fun and relaxation, but want spontaneity and adventure. Millennials are attracted to destinations where there is an opportunity to learn something new. This is a generation whose parents lived through the turmoil with Cuba in the 1960’s and 1990’s. They have also learned about it in history class, painting it as this far off land, inaccessible by American citizens. Those realisms helped to create intrigue about someday traveling to this foreign place. Millennials interested in traveling to Cuba want to help ease the misunderstood reputation Cuba has had as delivered in the stories of Baby Boomers and in the history books, all the while ensuring that peace is a continued reality between both nations.
The additional appeal for Millennials is in visiting a place that has yet to increase its costs based around tourism. For example, a standard hotel room may run between $20 and $30 a night, a pre-negotiated taxi rate could be no more than $5, and a 5-star dinner will be less than $50 in many locations. An additional advantage to traveling to Cuba instead of other Caribbean destinations is the exchange rate between US dollars and Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is 1:1. This means budgeting for a trip and understanding actual currency value is easy. Each of these add up to an affordable, unique, adventurous vacation that many Millennials seek.
Cuba is a nation that is close to home and full of promise. It will not take long for Cuba to became another regular Caribbean destination. Until that time, it remains an untouched and unassuming travel spot. It is my hope that Millennial tourism to the island nation will help open the doors to mutual economic success and a greater intercultural appreciation for all things Cuban.