Up Close & Personal With Cuba Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero
with Nina Slawek
Cuba Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero speaks to the travel industry in Toronto, with translation provided by Eloy Govea, Director, Cuba Tourist Board Canada.
A big bear of man was introduced to the various industry types at Toronto’s Sassafraz last Friday. When it came time for Manuel Marrero Cruz to shake my hand, the warmth and spirit which defines the Cuban people was apparent in his smile and genuine welcome. Despite a busy schedule on his Canadian visit, the minister graciously took time for a brief interview with Open Jaw’s Nina Slawek (he in Spanish, Open Jaw in English).
Q. What does Cuba mean for you?
Despite the staccato tempo an interview via a translator can have, Minister Marrero’s response to this question was clear from the pride on his face. “It is the máximum. The most important, most sacred part of my life. It is heaven and it is earth.”
Q: If I am your friend and I ask you why should I visit Cuba?
“Because you have a family that you don’t know about. All Cubans are family with Canadians and you have not met that family. That would be the top reason for you to come back. Cubans, we don’t have much but we share, not what we have in excess, but what we have, we share.”
Q: Talk to me about security: Why is this an important issue for Canadians to understand?
“We live now in a crazy world. Terrorism. The President of the U.S. threatening constantly, the whole world including his allies. I think that one of the attributes a culture can have is the condition of being a safe country. There is no organized crime, no gangs, no drugs or pills. There’s total safety in the streets. You can walk the streets, before dawn without any fear, not only that, you enjoy safety, hygienic safety because of the health system we have oriented to the prevention of illness.”
Q: Travel agents are changing, in Canada, they still sell packages, but a lot of travel agents are focusing on luxury travel. How will Cuba address this market?
“Precisely today we are taking that very much into account. We have to recognize that years ago, for wealthy clients, the only luxury we had to offer was the wealth of an authentic experience. Now we are able to offer luxury and still be true to our values.
The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana and the Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard are 5-star luxury hotels. If you go to Cayo Santa Maria, we have already started to build and develop products for that market with villas that have private beaches. The rooms are like a luxurious home, with jacuzzi. And the food is excellent! Caviar and everything.”
Nina Slawek President
The visionary co-founder of Open Jaw, Nina handles everything at OJ from the purse-strings to the talented but eccentric staff. She is frequently spotted hobnobbing with industry leaders and making glamorous appearances in the Open Jaw TV Room.