Canadian firm offers sea, sun and ... reform in Cuba

Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:55pm EST
 
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By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Want a taste of reform in communist Cuba?

A Canadian tour-operator said on Thursday it was offering a full immersion in the transformations currently reshaping one of the world's last Soviet-style economies.

Toronto-based Gap Adventures says it will embed clients with Cuban families to experience first-hand President Raul Castro's attempt to overhaul the island's sluggish economy.

Tourists will have the opportunity to share Cubans' expectations about the expansion of the private sector as well as their fears regarding the government's plan to slash 500,000 jobs in the public sector.

"Our guides know a lot about their history and what it means to see Cuba changing. Travelers will meet plenty of people in Cuba who will share their thoughts," said Leah Griffin, Gap's destination manager for Central America and the Caribbean.

"The worldview of Cuba is changing. Opportunities for people to visit the island and see it as it is today are fleeting," she told Reuters in a email interview.

The reforms are Cuba's deepest transformation since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution. The government says they are aimed at improving the island's economy while guaranteeing the survival of its socialist system.

The tours also include more conventional activities such as snorkeling in Cuba's turquoise waters, taking salsa lessons, sampling rum and visiting world-renowned tobacco plantations in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

Gap says it specialize in adventure tours from expeditions to Antarctica to social work in Cambodia's shantytowns.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Anthony Boadle)