Yesterday I woke up to a whole barrage of tweets, emails and news reports on Carnival Cruises new venture into Cuba. It was a huge hand to head moment, how could I have missed it! Of course, Fathom was merely a ploy to open the back door into Cuba. By taking advantage of the Cuban visa loop-hole, people-to-people holidays, Carnival Cruises has been able to enter the holy grail of American destinations.
As the doors have been ‘supposedly’ flung open and the Americans are welcomed with open arms tourists have been falling over themselves to get there before ‘its too late’! However, Americans still face the difficulty of finding the right key to enter, if they have it at all! Heavy sanctions still apply to American citizens and it can still be very complicated to acquire a visa as seen here. But, as Carnivals massive cruise ship sails through a tiny visa loophole mine and many others hearts will sink to the bottom of the ocean.
At this point I do have to question, does a more welcoming tourism industry have to be bad news? A profitable tourism market, especially one with a strong foundation of home-stays, will bring huge opportunities for the Cuban people and could even improve tourists experience. However, cruise ships haven’t got the best reputation and will probably make little economic impact let alone a sustainable positive impact.
I wasn’t surprised that Carnival Cruises turned out to be as crocked as they come and deserved their achievement as bronze medal winner in the corporate criminals list. However, in my previous blog, I had believed that their Fathom project in the Dominican Republic was a small but significant success for responsible tourism and optimism grew warm inside me. However, yesterday it was replaced by the cold realisation that I had been duped. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic is a Trojan horse for irresponsible tourism; sneaking themselves into the Cuban waters whilst stepping over the disadvantaged to get to the money pot. After the press release their so called ‘impact travel’ seems to have only impacted their wallets as their share prices peeked.
However, it wasn’t just me, it seems Carnival Cruises have splashed salt in quite a few peoples eyes which has stung harder than normal but only blinded us just for a second. How dare they trick their own customers who, in Carnivals own words, are looking for ‘that elusive sense of purpose’. To use the Dominican Republic, that Carnival Cruises has said ‘40% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the average household income is less than $6,000′ is inexcusable. Cuba is set to be the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean who even sent their own volunteers, hundreds of health workers, to help with the Ebola crises. So without sounding insensitive, what benefits will a ship load of inexperienced and under-qualified volunteers bring to Cuba?
Although the positive impact would have been minimal, the Dominican Republic is in danger of being overshadowed by Cuba’s popularity. It is clear that Carnival cruses only cares for profit. Both cruises to the Dominican Republic and Cuba run on adjacent months, it will be easy to cast an unprofitable trip aside.
Perhaps this is the time to expose Carnival Cruises, but how? Remember, many Americans now have a shiny new escalator straight through a pair of automatic doors into Cuba, so will our targeted consumer campaigns be effective? In a statement, Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation said, “We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between U.S. citizens and the people of Cuba a reality.” So lets lobby, investigate and campaign to close the people-to-people loophole on Carnival Corporation. Lets investigate how they plan to make social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges and expose their shortfalls in people-to-people connections. Nobody likes to feel they have been tricked!
Below is a couple of emails that you can use to question Carnival Cruises people-to-people holidays, lets see how they plan to ‘ make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges‘ promised in Cuba. Lets flood them with questions!
@CarnivalPLC – Carnival Cruises twitter account