Accepted Paper:

Cuban heritage tourism and private businesses: surviving in a subsistence economy?  


Oskar Lubinski (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of the paper is to provide insight on how the development of tourism in some of the heritage sites in Cuba provides opportunities to Cubans to earn revenue by renting their house but at the same time generates inequalities in the host community.

Paper long abstract:

The following paper derives from the ethnographic research realised in Cuba in the years 2014 and 2015 in some heritage sites (including the ones listed as such by UNESCO), especially Havana, Matanzas and ViƱales Valley. I visited numerous rent houses, private restaurants etc. in order to see how their space was constructed and what associations it was aimed to provoke.

Heritage has become one of the most important focal points of tourism in Cuba. Its development provides Cubans with an opportunity to tackle economic hardships in an subsistence economy. People involved in tourism business in Cuba will therefore strongly refer to this attribute in order to attract visitors (by underling their house was built in colonial style etc).

Babb (2011: 52) attributes the rapid rise of popularity of Cuba to it being perceived "as an amalgam of colonial architecture and traditional life; pre-revolutionary extravagance and nightlife". Nostalgia may be seen as one of the most important reasons to visit the country which is not overrun by international chains of production and consumption and feel a climate of a different, long passed epoch.

By focusing on places promoted as colonial heritage sites and their role in the tourism industry in contemporary Cuba, I aim to inquire into strategies which Cubans adopt in order to earn a decent living. It is important to bear in mind, however, that tourism development also contributes to the rise of social inequalities due to limited access to visitors for some members of the host community.

Panel Heri006
Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource