The changing face of Cuba


At one time, booking a holiday in Cuba could have been compared to embarking on an ill-advised love affair; fun, passion and fiery temperaments were guaranteed, but only with the caveat of constant frustration.

Since Barack Obama’s announcement in December last year, easing an embargo in place since 1960, there has been an avalanche of interest in the destination - not only from American tourists but also eager British travellers keen to see “the real Cuba, before it’s too late”.

Some tour operators have even reported a 95 per cent increase in searches for Cuba holidays. But should we all be rushing to book now?

United Airlines has announced plans to operate flights from Newark and Houston to Havana, Netflix has launched a TV and film streaming package to the Cuban market, and Twitter was a flurry of excitement this week when TV host Conan O’Brien announced filming of the first US talk show on the island since 1959.

Lonely Planet suggests that future changes might include a rail service linking the country, new golf courses, hotels aimed at the luxury market, and those beloved but dangerous vintage cars being replaced by Audis and Toyotas.

Advances have been taking place since 2011, when Raul Castro eased restrictions on private business. Behind the smiling faces and photogenic buildings, Cuba is an extremely poor country, with many living in unsafe housing, and an ambitious youth unable to realise their full potential. Change, at some point, had to happen.

Cuba’s irrepressible energy and irresistible charm will no doubt continue to capture visitors’ hearts for years to come, but a chapter of the island’s history is coming to a close.

If you want to experience what Cuba once was, it would be best to visit now.