Apple Leisure Group is riding high, with new owners, new resorts, new packages, and new vacation concepts (see part one of this story). Not surprisingly, its hotel division, AMResorts, is expanding into new destinations, but what about Cuba? We asked CEO Alejandro Zozaya to share his views about what the future might bring.
Cuba in the Freezer?
“Cuba is already on our business plan. Last year we sent about 7,500 passengers to Cuba through the distribution side of our company [Apple subsidiaries Apple Vacations and Travel Impressions], and we’re sending an even bigger number this year, despite the limitations of the embargo,” says Zozaya. “From the hotel side, AMResorts is not yet allowed to go and operate any hotel in Cuba. Marriott-Starwood got in for business hotels, but we’re leisure. However, we are in negotiations.
“Cuba sounds most certain that it’s going to change. We don’t know exactly what will happen, though, because Donald Trump is very unpredictable. If he does what he says he’s going to do, this would put our plans in the freezer.”
What if Trump continues the weakening of the embargo? “I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. The new president will need to maintain his popularity to please his base, so he could actually go back to more restrictions. We don’t believe the embargo will be lifted.”
Restoration of the embargo: a grim thought for the Cubans who work with people-to-people programs and the thousands of American travel advisors who’ve been booking packages, not to mention tour operators, cruise lines, eight U.S-based airlines, technology companies (e.g. AT&T), Marriott International and a large segment of U.S. citizens who have put Cuba on their bucketlists.
However, Zozaya does mention what could be a mitigating factor: “Fidel Castro has died,” he says, “and without Fidel, Cuba will have to start changing internally toward private investment and human rights.”
Which leaves us wondering: Might these changes toward private investment and human rights give the new U.S. president cover to continue the thaw in relations with Cuba?
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