When we left off, we were discussing how Tania got her start in the tourism industry in Cuba. After studying English at university, she had hoped to work in a hotel but was told she was over qualified. Then she got a call from the Cuban tourism company Cubanacan to work as a tour guide.
Kyna: When was this, what year?
Tania: That was in 1991.
Kyna: So, that was right after Russia was out of there, really hard times.
Tania: Exactly and that was the beginning of real Western tourism. What we had before were political groups, students that came for political or social reasons.
Kyna: You mean from Communist countries?
Tania: And from America too, kind of like People to People.
Kyna: But not vacation tourism?
Tania: No. Socio-politic, they used to call it, socio-politic groups.
They used to meet Communist Party members and stuff like that. That was the type of tourism that we had.The real tourism really broke out after 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I worked with the first FITs and groups coming from the UK with Thompson Holidays, the first tour operator to do flights directly to Varadero, to the beach resorts.
Kyna: Were they building beach resorts?
Tania: Oh yes. Melia came into the picture in 1990. In 1990 they built Sol Palmeras, in 1991 Melia Las Americas and several other hotels, they were building infrastructure very strategically to develop tourism. Then came Super Clubs, Iberostar and different hotel chains.
Kyna: What about existing hotels, from before the Revolution?
Tania: They were owned and managed by the government. Later they were commercialized. There was a lot of competition.
So, my work as a tour guide gave me the opportunity to get experience in the industry, to deal with the tour operators, to get to know the resorts, the different sites.