Saturday, March 25, 2017

Travel agencies getting sued for misrepresenting conditions in Cuba to tourists

Travel agencies rosy picture of Cuba has a legal downside

Paradisus Rio de Oro in Holguin: what travel agencies show (left) what tourists see (right)
Lonely Planet pitches Cuba as "old school cool" and an "escape from the hustle and bustle" but at the bottom of the web page has one line of caution: "The US Center for Disease Control has issued a travel alert suggesting that pregnant women postpone travel to Cuba due to the presence of the zika virus." The Castro regime has a poor history of timely reporting of epidemics on the island, placing tourists at risk.  Canada's Sunwing travel agency pitches Cuba as "Paradise…with a history." However it fails to mention that the resort they were sending tourists to in Cuba had "water problems" which meant little or no water for at least 12 days according to a March 22, 2017 Global News article. In a follow up article on March 24th Global news reported on  the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria resort in Cuba:
Travellers told Global News they had little or no fresh water for their entire trip to the resort, making it impossible to flush toilets, take showers or wash their hands.
Some, like Donna Carvalho of Georgetown, Ont., returned to Canada and went almost immediately to hospital with severe diarrhea, vomiting and an excruciating headache. Carvalho was placed in isolation for five hours and released after she said doctors concluded she had likely become ill from unsanitary conditions at the resort.
Carvalho said she witnessed the hotel restaurant using a “dirty rag” to clean dishes, cutlery and glassware in lieu of a dishwasher. Other travellers described similar nauseating experiences.
The Canadian government has said that the ill served tourists, many of whom returned home very sick can sue the travel agency.  It is not only Sunwing that needs to worry about a lawsuit but also the British based Thomas Cook travel agency.  James and Kathryn Longhurst booked their dream honeymoon to Cuba for a two-week all-inclusive getaway in Paradisus Rio de Oro in Holguin, Guardalavaca that cost the newlywed couple $6,235.     Three days in, Mr Longhurst fell so ill his tongue turned black. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was given injections and put on IV drips. Returned home and continued to feel ill. They are now suing Thomas Cook.  Mrs. Longhurst also became ill. The newlyweds cited "filthy conditions" as the cause of the illness observing in a March 23rd article in The Sun that "dining restaurants were poorly kept with food not “covered properly”, “insects and birds” flying around the buffet area, staff not wearing gloves while handling food and the same utensils used for different dishes."

James Longhurst was put on an IV drip on his honeymoon
Tourism was supposed to be a magic bullet that would help to open up Cuba, but the reality has been more of a mixed bag with some unexpected downsides for everyday Cubans while strengthening the most repressive elements in the island. However at the same time tourists visiting the island on more than one occasion have encountered the real Cuba that the Castro regime spends considerable resources trying to conceal from outsiders. Nevertheless news accounts emerge that should give prospective visitors pause.

It is true that tourism provides hard currency to the Cuban military, that runs the tourism industry on the island shoring up the dictatorship, but not expected was that it would also generate food shortages among everyday Cubans as The New York Times reported on December 8, 2016.

Foreign tourists misled by travel agencies can seek justice and exercise their rights back home, but not in Cuba. Meanwhile Cubans have less access to food while the military and the Castro regime get richer off of foreign tourists prolonging the life of the dictatorship.


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