As Cuba enters a period of economic recession and austerity, tourism may offer a beacon of hope as a driver of sustainable economic growth, if new policies can unlock the industry’s long-term potential. Groundbreaking new Brookings research into the industry, conducted by Richard E. Feinberg of the University of California at San Diego and Richard S. Newfarmer of the International Growth Centre (LSE and Oxford), assesses the organizational structure and financial picture of the various players. The authors also offer policy options for Cuba to achieve its economic goals for the tourism sector and the country as a whole, and for U.S. actors, including the government, to support that growth. Their findings are especially timely as the third anniversary of the December 17, 2014 announcement of the resumption of bilateral relations approaches and a new U.S. administration prepares to take the reins.
On Friday, December 2, the Latin America Initiative at Brookings hosted a panel discussion on the Cuban tourism sector’s role in Cuba’s economic development plan, and the implications for both Cuba and the United States. Feinberg and Newfarmer opened the event by presenting the key findings offered in their report. Their remarks were followed by a panel discussion with George Washington University professor of tourism Hannah Messerli, moderated by Brookings Senior Fellow Ted Piccone.