Recently Rick and I with a mix of innkeepers and a few ‘civilians’ travelled as a group to Cuba. We travelled through a People to People Exchange Program with the T.R.E.E. Institute. This is a charitable organization that “promotes better quality of life for all humanity through an understanding of plants and their role in providing ecosystems around the world’. The programs are funded partially by adventure trips like the one we just completed.
And what an adventure it was! So, you may ask, what did our trip have to do with innkeeping? As part of our education we were introduced to Cuba’s casa particulars. We were fortunate to visit a few and meet the innkeepers.
What is a Casa Particular?
Basically they are Cuban bed and breakfasts. They are most often in private homes that have been transformed into, on average, one to four guest room B&Bs. Travelers experience staying with a local family, dine on local food and learn about local culture and history. Sound familiar? The only difference would be that in a Cuban casa particular you can smoke Cuban cigars with the innkeepers! Or how about a mojito for breakfast?
These enterprising businesses are fairly new to the country. In 1997, the Cuban government announced that Cuban families could register their home as a privately owned business and rent rooms to foreigners. Many privately owned restaurants, called Paladars, have also flourished and our group dined exclusively at them. This has been an enormous step to freedom in Cuba. Before 1997 all accommodations and restaurants were state-owned and operated. You can imagine the limitations!
Since Raul Castro took over from his brother there have been a number of economic reforms. There are now opportunities for more travel overseas these days. That includes the US. Welcoming Cubans to our Inns. What fun.
The people we met were not only friendly but were eager to engage in conversation about their home and their hopes for the future. In their eyes we saw hope. The future seems brighter for Cuba and freer every day.
Our favorite quote throughout the trip from our wonderful Cuban tour guide; “Everything is possible…Nothing is guaranteed.” That sounds like hope to me, with a bit of pragmatism thrown in.
Thanks for Listening,