Another international locale that has been on my mind lately is the newly “opened” country of Cuba. With the lifting of the embargo, and recent visits by the Obamas and Beyoncé and Jay-Z, it is one of the “coolest” places to travel to right now. I wanted to go for spring break but for the expensive flights, although my friend and I are eyeing some cheaper fares in May that we are thinking of hopping on.
I do, however, wonder about whether traveling to Cuba is responsible. I am not worried about danger, and I am definitely not worried about the politics of such a trip, but I wonder whether a massive influx or tourists (and my contribution to that influx) would be good for Cuba. Already I have read articles about how people are going hungry in Cuba because tourists are eating so much of the food while local farmers are not growing more to keep up, therefore increasing the price of food as well. Is that something I want to support?
I also look at other sites around the world that have become tourist hotspots. Venice, for example, is in danger of losing its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the effects on the city of tens of thousands of tourists visiting each day. And beyond the tourism, the local government is treating down older buildings and municipal facilities to make way for tourist infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, etc. I could see the same thing happening in Cuba.
Even if Havana didn’t become as extreme as Venice, I still would feel bad about Cuba turning into the next Bahamas, where Americans view it only as a place to go to the beach or to go swimming with dolphins.
Ultimately, I probably will end up going anyway, if I am being honest – I am a strong supporter of and believer in the power of the sharing of cultures, and I hope that those benefits might outweigh any drawbacks.