A team of thirty-three Cubans arrived in Miami about six years ago has launched “Tour Republic”, a website to sell recreational activities in Cuba that connects the traveler with experienced urban guides, some of them with automotive “jewel” included.
“Tour Republic is not a travel agency, but an Airbnb-like marketplace, but they do it with hostels,” explains the director and creator of the company, Enmanuel Tirado, in an interview with Efe.
Tirado and its partners, who took more than a year to build the site (tourepublic.com), offer “experiences”, “extra-hotel activities”, for an average price of 100 dollars.
These are not tourist packages, but short-term activities guided by hosts who make direct competition to spontaneous street guides.
Tourists contact freelancers who take them to dance classes, provide them with transportation within cities and even provide them with some history classes.
Lizandra Díaz, responsible for content, says that they have not yet uploaded everything they are planning to sell, but they are “offering the best of Havana”.
“We are dedicated to the fun of travel, not the bureaucracy,” rounds up Diaz.
The web allows you to see the name of the guides (Tour Republic calls them “entrepreneurs”) and their professions.
There is one that travels to Varadero, Santa Clara and the south of Matanzas province which is a former air traffic controller. It owns a Chevrolet Impala of 1959, just the year the “revolution” of the Castro brothers arrived, and it promotes its vehicle like one of the “jewels” automovilísticas of the island.
In principle this website is more focused on Canadian tourists, who are the most numerous among those who arrive in Cuba, than in the Americans, who to travel to the island need to qualify in one of the 12 categories established by the previous government, chaired By Barack Obama, when he undertook the melting of relationships.
“In college I read studies (2004 or 2005) that promised 5 million American tourists a year if travel restrictions were removed, but that’s still a dream,” he says.
Tirado and his partners decided to launch Tour Republica encouraged by the process of normalization of relations initiated by Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro.
Now with Donald Trump in the White House and his promise to review his predecessor’s policy, they do not know what will happen.
Of course, he says, “if there is any measure that represents a setback in US relations with Cuba, we will be affected, not only us, but also any American company that is having business there.”
The executive director of the company points out that this is a great tool for those who arrive on cruise ships, so that they do not fall into inexperienced hands but those of some guides (already have about twenty) who have been in this activity for many years.
Tirado and Díaz report that it was difficult to find an appropriate name for the project. The “domains” on the internet were a straitjacket and they wanted the “vintage” idea to be present in the visual.
That is why the word Republic, referring to ancient times, and images like that of a convertible car driven by a “rebel” in a military-green suit, who smokes a cigar airing a Cuban flag, which heads one of the sections of the site.
In 2016 Cuba recorded for the first time in its history the record number of 4 million foreign visitors and by 2017 it expects to reach 4.2 million.
So far in 2017 two million foreign visitors have arrived on the island, a figure 39 days earlier than last year, according to official Cuban figures.
Despite the fact that Americans still can not travel as tourists to the island, Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism announced this month that travelers arriving from the US Increased 18% in the first quarter of the year.