“We are all Africans,” s a South African teacher used to say proudly. That’s right, as indicated by the oldest samples of our existence on Earth. However, people are not too fond of staying put: they come and go, here and there, most of the time.
Since the early nomadic tribes lost in history, human mobility has been the sign of the endless quest for new and better ways of living, development, happiness.
Centuries later, the phenomenon of migration is closely linked to tourism, and in turn to remittances. Dr. Jose Luis Perello, professor at the School of Tourism at the University of Havana, discusses how these relationships are present in Cuba.
“The second emitting market in the statistics are Cubans living abroad, those who at one time left the country. Over a period of two to three years, they needed to recover economically, and after that time they already were able to visit their relatives and friends here.
“But as they maintained relations with them, they were also sending remittances. That money has been increasing year after year, and even new features are present now. For example, the U.S government recently authorized 131 agencies to engage in travel and remittances between this country and Cuba.
“So it happens that those who come to visit are also tourists. If we consider the definition tourist is anyone who, residing somewhere else, look for more than 24 hours and less than one year a tourist destination either. So there is a close relationship, and not just in the case of Cuba, in today’s world the migration segment is marking the patterns in the development of travel from one nation to another. ”
Thus, Perelló explains, remittances and expenditure incurred during visits, contribute to the gradual recovery of domestic and community microeconomics. An example of this is the appearance in the non-state sector of small tourism-related establishments, especially restaurants known as “paladares” and lodging in private homes.
That way, the definition of co-development emerges, midway between the classical view of development aid, and migration as such. This involves the participation of migrants as actors that contribute, in one way or another, to the progress of their home communities, given their transnational experience two realities: the native and target one.
As for the rent of rooms, (which reached more than 8000, with 30.9 percent of them located in Havana), the professor said that these could be thought of as a alternative or complementary modality to hotel accommodation.
Regarding the transfer of remittances, generally there are no reliable statistics to account for this reality, because not all the money comes through formal ways.
Then, can we say that the future Cuban migrants are tourists? Perelló thinks so. While these have an interest in maintaining a relationship with their country of origin, they are being incorporated into a new segment called ethnic tourism.
“This type occurs primarily through the networks Cubans establish, or the natives of any country living abroad, with family and friends in their home country. The ethnic tourism is characterized by those people traveling to meet with their loved ones, for example, to celebrate a birthday, New Year, weddings, baptisms, holy festivals, carnivals…
“That is regardless of other festivities, such as the anniversary of the founding of Havana. Those who are genuinely or nostalgically linked to the capital, travel around this time of celebration to walk around the foundational Ceiba tree, for example.
Or to visit El Cobre in order to fulfill a promise, or go to El Rincon each December 17 … or just to keep feeling themselves as Cubans ”
If you limit these phenomena to the scope of Cuba-United States relations, he points some perspectives. “From different changes in the attitude of the U.S. government, on the one hand, and certain changes in policy and in the economic and social model of Cuba, these relationships tend to improve.
“There are certain factors that could speed this up, as the consolidation of CELAC, Obama’s re-election for a second term, in which he is not committed to any reactionary anti-Cuban group, and also the appointment of John Kerry as the new Secretary of State. If that scenario materializes, it should promote the development of U.S. travel to Cuba. “