Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gardens of the Queen: Caribbean’s Last Pristine Coral Reefs

 | June 21, 2014 9:10 am |
[Editor's note: Conor Kennedy traveled this summer to Cuba to dive the Gardens of the Queen, one of the most pristine marine environments in the Caribbean, to conduct ecological assessments of the coral reef ecosystem with Ocean Doctor. This is Part I of a five-part series. Read Part IIPart III andPart IV.]
ckennedyI’m in Havana getting ready for an early morning trip to the Gardens of the Queen, the archipelago and reef complex 60 miles south of Central Cuba in the rich intersection where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet those of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Theexpedition sponsors are Ocean Doctor and The Explorers Club. Our mission is to gather data on the Caribbean’s last pristine reef system.

The Gardens of the Queen is 60 miles south of Central Cuba in the rich intersection where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet those of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Gardens of the Queen is 60 miles south of Central Cuba in the rich intersection where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet those of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Today we met with former President Fidel Castro, who was an early and passionate advocate for protecting the reef. Castro told us that he had fished and dove the extraordinary reef over its entire 60 mile length. He began by telling us the history of a famous battle that took place on the reef in the War of Independence against Spain when an entire Spanish fleet was sunk by armored American war ships. His father came to Cuba as a Spanish soldier during that conflict.
He also told us about his personal evolution as an environmentalist. He began as an avid marlin and spear fisherman who slaughtered many marine species on the reef, assuming the oceans were infinite and could never be depleted. He next told us of an island rookery covered with Central American pigeons called torcaso palomas which he slaughtered with a shotgun and ate with great relish until he almost died after being poisoned by the toxic bark of the trees in which these pigeons roosted. Shortly after killing the doves he met with marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau. That meeting helped transform Castro into a committed environmentalist. He has committed to preserve 25 percent of Cuba’s waters from extractive fishing as Marine Preserves, while the U.S. lags, preserving less than 2 percent of our coastal waters.

Me with my dad and brother Aidan in Havana, Cuba.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Florida Aquarium team to travel to Cuba

Oct 13, 2014, 11:29am EDT
Courtesy of CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises

StaffTampa Bay Business Journal
Members of the Florida AquariumFoundation will travel to Havana, Cuba to hold meetings with the National Aquarium of Cuba.
The Cuban aquarium is looking to build a research partnership with a U.S. counterpart, but the Florida Aquarium has not stated publicly whether it is interested in such an arrangement, the Tampa Tribunesaid. The trip is expected to stretch from next Tuesday to Sunday.
“This is an educational mission,” said Tom Hall, foundation chairman who will travel on the trip. “We want to talk about what we do, hear what they do, and then compare notes. I’ll know more when we get back.”
According to Jeffrey Boutwell of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C., the Cuban aquarium wants to create a relationship with a U.S. aquarium on issues of mutual interest including minimizing the effects of oil spills and protecting populations of fish including marlin and tuna, the Tribune said.    http://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/blog/latin/2014/10/florida-aquarium-team-to-travel-to-cuba.html

Monday, October 6, 2014

Prospects for Private Boat Travel

Marina industry group plans trip to Cuba

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Amadeus Booking Software in Cuba

Pioneer Travel Software Introduced in CubaPDFImprimirE-Mail
Havana, Sep 30 (Prensa Latina) Amadeus travel agency, started today in Cuba a pioneer travel software that includes booking for inland transportation, through a project with Viazul and Cubana de Aviación, and the collaboration of Iberia.
Viazul, the main bus company with regular service in this country, will assume from Tuesday the implementation of a system of inventory control, distribution, check-in and issuing e-tickets, which benefits the tourism industry in the archipelago.

This electronic booking mechanism covers all Viazul national routes. The project consists of two phases and includes system processes, the provision of the initial basic equipment for inland terminals and Viazul Booking Center (CR), besides the training of the operations staff and technicians in terminals.

This plan includes access to the system from all travel agencies which are clients of Amadeus in Cuba.

The second phase is scheduled for 2015 and includes the distribution of Viazul routes through a shared code with Cubana de Aviación for all travel agencies worldwide.

The deputy director general of Omnibus Nacionales, Alberto Ramos, told reporters that through Amadeus network, all Cuban travel agencies will be able to make Viazul bookings electronically.

This project aims to develop destinations within the country (to place them on the world tourism map) and save time and steps for Viazul.

Amadeus, created in the 1980s, has about 10 thousand employees and offices in Madrid, Nice and Erding, with 71 commercial organizations. Viazul is a transport dependency of Omnibus Nacionales created in Cuba in 1996.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Labor Tour November 16-22

Invitation to Join a Labor Tour of Cuba: November 16th - November 22nd (8/15/14)

We are putting together a seven-day, six night tour of Cuba for senior staff and local leaders at various U.S. labor unions.  The tour will concentrate on the current economic reforms and their impact on Cuban workers.  It will also explore how Cuban trade unions are trying to deal with these massive changes.  Finally, we will get a real education on how the U.S. blockade impacts Cuba and how it also impacts the United States.

We would like to invite you to join this exciting trip tentatively scheduled for November 16th through November 22nd.  A maximum of fifteen (and a minimum of 10) people will join the tour that is sponsored and organized by Disarm Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that has a U.S. government license to conduct people-to-people tours of Cuba.  The tour will be lead by Bob Schwartz, Director of Disarm Education Fund and Michael Locker, President of Locker Associates. 

Undoubtedly you will learn a lot from this experience, and you could possibly use this knowledge in your work moving forward.  The Revolution is now 55 years old and, as you probably know, Cuba is currently undergoing major economic and social changes, experimenting with new ways to improve their weak economy and incorporating private ownership in their restructuring efforts.  As you might expect, Cuban workers from every occupation are undergoing difficult changes as these government reforms are being instituted. 

Moreover, Cuba is still confronted with a total U.S. economic blockade, cutting the country off from all forms of U.S. commerce and investment.  In our opinion this illegal and unjust blockade should be immediately lifted, first because of the massive damage to the Cuban people and their economy and second because it actually hurts the U.S. economy.  By blockading Cuba, the U.S. government has eliminated significant exports from the United States, thereby weakening the U.S. economy and employment opportunities.

More specifically, the purpose of the trip is to explore:
·     The rapidly changing Cuban reality.
·     The role of Cuban unions and workers in restructuring their economy.
·     The role of Cuban cooperatives in restructuring their economy.
·     The impact of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the United States.
·     How the end of the U.S. embargo would affect the U.S. economy and U.S. workers.
·     How to involve U.S. unions and labor leaders in ending the Cuban embargo.

Tentative activities during the trip include:
·     Meet with national and local union leaders of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC).
·     Open discussion with the Cuban Communist Party on key political questions.
·     Visit two traditional work centers, including a one day trip to Cienfuegos.
·     Visit two new co-operative work centers.
·     Visit the new port of Mariel.
·     Visit a school or daycare center.
·     Visit a health clinic.
·     Presentation & discussion on the Cuban economy with a Cuban economist.
·     Presentation & discussion on the US embargo and its impact on Cuba with an expert.
·     Meet with the Catholic Church.
·     Tour Old Havana where major restoration has occurred.  
·     Meet with professors and administrators at the University of Havana.
·     Experience diverse cultural activities including music, dance, theater, etc.

This trip will cost about $3,000.  This will include roundtrip airfare from Miami to Havana, transportation services inside Cuba, accommodations at a first-class hotel, breakfast every morning, two lunches and two dinners at excellent restaurants, translation and a guide.  Transportation to and from Miami is not included and must be arranged for and paid by you.

See the attached Fact Sheet for further details on the tour.

If you are interested in applying for this tour fill out the attached questionnaire and return it no later than July 31, 2014 to:

Michael Locker
Locker Associates
225 Broadway, Suite 2625
New York, NY 10007

If you have any questions please call or email Michael Locker at 212-962-2980 or lockerassociates@yahoo.com.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cuban state tourism industry beginning to do business with new class of entrepreneurs

Andrea Rodriguez And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press
Sat, 27 Sep 2014 11:16:00 CST

FILE - This Sept. 11, 2013 file photo shows the San Francisco de Asis plaza during a light rain near the harbor in Old Havana, Cuba. Cuba’s state-run tourism industry is increasingly doing business with the country’s new class of entrepreneurs, trying to improve quality of food and lodging while maintaining a grip on the sector’s biggest sources of foreign exchange. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes, File)
HAVANA - Cuba's state-run tourism industry increasingly is doing business with the country's new class of private entrepreneurs, trying to improve quality of food and lodging while maintaining a grip on the sector's biggest sources of foreign exchange.
One of the country's highest tourism officials provided new details on the initiative in an interview with The Associated Press, saying two dozen restaurants for tourists have been converted into worker-owned co-operatives since January. Jose Manuel Bisbe, president of state tour operator Havanatur, also said his firm was sending tourists to hundreds of private bed-and-breakfasts instead of government hotels.
"The state must free itself from activities that aren't decisive for the economy and that experience is showing function better privately," he told the AP on Friday. He said that some tourism-related businesses like bus transport and large-scale hotels would remain in state hands.
Tourism is one of Cuba's top four generators of income, along with nickel mining, medical services and remittances from relatives living abroad.
State-run restaurants for tourists and for Cubans have long suffered from complaints about poor quality and widespread pilferage by employees who resell food and supplies on the black market or take them for personal use. Hundreds of private restaurants have sprung up around the country since the launch of a limited economic liberalization four years ago and generally offer food and customer service far superior to those in government venues.
Cuba sees co-operatives as a middle ground between the communist model of state ownership and the private enterprise that has been making inroads into industries like restaurants and personal services under the reform meant to spur badly needed growth.
State news agency Prensa Latina has reported that Cuba has 11,000 restaurants, most for Cubans, and 1,260 private establishments known as "paladares," which cater mostly to visitors and foreigners living in Cuba.
Official statistics are sparse in Cuba and Bisbe declined to provide further details of the private enterprise initiative, including how many restaurants were run wholly or partly by the state tourism sector. The Ministry of Commerce also runs a large number of restaurants.
State news agency Cubadebate reported this week that 200 homeowners in the lush Vinales valley had signed deals with state tour operators to provide lodging for tourists.
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tour Agencies Sign Contracts with Private Rent Houses in Eastern Cuba

Tour Agencies Sign Contracts with Private Rent Houses in Eastern CubaHAVANA, Cuba, Sep 22 (acn) About 200 of the more than 700 rent houses existing in Viñales town have signed to date contracts with Cubatur, Havanatur and Cubanacan agencies, in keeping with the politics drawn in the 6th Communist Party Congress, Granma newspaper published today.
The establishment of business linkages between travel agencies and the non-state sector seeks to meet the demand for accommodation during the high season in that Pinar del Rio municipality, which has only three hotels, executives of that industry said.
According to Yarelis Moreno, Cubatur representative in the province, the measure also reflects the intention of promoting Cuban lifestyle, culture and roots. In that sense, it is another option offered to customers, she said.
These relationships not only benefit the travel agencies, but it also provides self-employed sector another source of income, as well as a means of promotion and recognition.
For establishing the contract the landlords must have their documentation in order, comply with tax regulations and have comfortable rooms in line with international standards.