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Alan Machin: Tourism As Education
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Berlin: Editing a Townscape
... and reading a city that has had many rebuilders
Making Sense of The Travel Learning Experience- 1
1 Information Streams
Making Sense of the Travel Learning Experience - 2
Some basic theories
Back to Basics: Presentation given at the Cuba EduTourism Conference
The CETA Conference in Havana, Cuba, 8/9 November 2010
About the author
Comments - CV - photos
At the heart of the tourist experience
Learning through Landscapes
Exploring Oxfordshire (and a bit of Gloucestershire!)
The Environment As Data: Building New Theories For Tourism
How tourists relate to places
Sail Gives Way to Steam
A return visit discovers just how much has been achieved in this iconic restoration
Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth Reenactment
Visits to Leicester and the battlefield event, 2013
Along The Way
Recollections and Reflections of 60+ Years' Learning about the World and its Ways
On the Edge of the New World
Shaping New England
Exploring Holderness in East Yorkshire; October 2012
Past Historic
Graf Zepplin, Spain 1968, OS History, Much Wenlock Olympics, Chatham Dockyard, Hawes Tourism, Colonial Williamsburg,
A Summer of Travelling / Matthew Starr
Three months' backpacking in Africa, Asia and Australia
East Anglia
The Broads, Pensthorpe natural history, Radar Museum, Caister Lifeboat Service and more!
A Richer Earth
Discoveries in the landscape and attractions of Shropshire
Blog Index Page
Blog pages from 2009 listed
From Strip Map to Sat Nav
'Finding the way' aids to exploration
Showcasing the World
How the Tourist Microcosm took centre stage
Doing A Dissertation
Notes to help students preparing their proposals
The Japanese Tsunami Destruction at First Hand
Sarah and Tom Wadsworth saw for themselves
Showcases: Examples
The range and variety of tourism's focal points examined
Jigsaw: Frameworks of Knowledge
The tourist jigsaw puzzle of - knowledge
Books and other works useful in studying tourism as education
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 2
The development of tourism as education, 1845 -
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 1
Tourism's educational origins and management
Impressions of Tourism in Cuba
Thoughts on having seen some of the country myself
Captain James Cook: North Yorkshire Days
Tracing the early life of Britain's greatest maritime explorer
Hunting the Hound of the Baskervilles
Tracking down places that inspired the famous detective story and moulded Dartmoor's image
Exploring the Idea of Dark Tourism
What is it? Is it a useful idea?
Talking to Tourists
Visitor interpretation - guide books, visitor centres and other media
Shades of Light and Dark in the Garden of England
An exploration in East Sussex and Kent, June/July 2010
Hunting the Gladiator and the Gecko
A thirteen-year search for a wartime adventure
Steam Up For A Famous Film's Birthday Party
The Railway Children weekend on the Worth Valley line raises questions about heritage presentations
Anne-Marie Rhodes: Making a Difference in South East Asia
Leeds Met graduate of '07 describes her activities
Discoveries in Northumberland, April 2010
Alnwick Gardens; Winter's Gibbet; Holy Island, Cragside, Wallington Hall
Discoveries in the Midlands, March 2010
Bletchley Park National Codes and Cipher Centre; and the Rollright Stones
Alan Machin's Blog - April 2010
The development of tourism as education continued
Jigsaw Puzzle!
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
Leaders Into The Field
People who inspired everyone to explore
Alan Machin's blogs - February and March 2010
Postings on the history tourism as education - redirection
Alan Machin's Blog - January 2010
Tourist photography and souvenirs
Earlier front-page blog postings - January 2010 onwards
Archived after being on the Home Page
News from higher education and - beyond
The Development of Educational Tourism
Key dates in the development of educational tourism
Alan Machin's Blog - December 2009
Christmas Quiz and other postings
Analysing Heritage Tourism
Ideas and perspectives on a hugely important sector
Alan Machin's Blog - November 2009
Visitors' Views of Stonehenge, West Sussex - and other Postings
Are Universities Losing Their Way?
Reflections having retired
Teaching Tourism At Leeds Met
Remembering the Best
Alan Machin's Blog - October 2009
Thoughts about university life and discovery by travel
Alan Machin's Blog - September 2009
Further postings about a trip last month to the USA, and about higher education
Alan Machin's Blog - August 2009
Postings about a trip this month to the USA
Alan Machin's Blog - July 2009
The Story So Far reaches the summer
Alan Machin's Blog - June 2009
The Story So Far looks back on seventeen years at Leeds Met
Alan Machin's Blog - May 2009
Another month of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - April 2009
Yet more of the Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - March 2009
More of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's Blog - February 2009
The Story So Far - pioneers, people and places
Alan Machin's Blog: January 2009
The Story So Far .... first postings of '09
Alan Machin's Blog: December 2008
The Story So Far .... latest postings
Alan Machin's Blog - November '08
The Story So Far.... continued
Alan Machin's Blog: October 2008
The Story So Far....
No Place Like Rome
The eternal city with the eternal tourists
Charleston, South Carolina
A photo essay about a fine historic city
Idealog - December 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
Idealog - November 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
The Educational Origins of Tourism
Discussion paper
Idealog - October 2007
Coton Military Cemetery; Education and Tourism; Chatham Maritime; Dickens World; Quiz Answers; Tourist Guides; Mediation In Tourism
Idealog - September 2007
Plane Paradox;Tour Guiding; Where in the World?; Do Tourism Students Know Where They Are?; Leeds Met's Wow!; Sea Harrier; Scarborough and Tourism As Education; Doing A Dissertation; Types of Tourist; A Media Lens; Cost of Travelling Alone; Risk of Bias?
Idealog - August 2007
A People Industry; Heritage Interpretation; Lud's Church; Tourists Go Home!; Stone Gappe YHA; Insight Guides; Eyewitness Guides; Bramhope Tunnel; Elizabethan Progress; Information Quality Matrix
Idealog - July 2007
Hidden Heroes, Health Tourism, Holme Fen Posts; Harrogate (again); Whitby Abbey; Dramatic Interpretation; Harrogate Interpretation, Attractions and Royal Hall
Idealog - June 2007
Christian Pilgrimage; Cincinnati Museums Centre; The Coming of the Guide Book; Talking to Tourists - Media, Stages of the Visit, The Service Journey; Tourism's Missing Link; The Final Call; SATuration level; Halifax's Edwardian Window on the World
Idealog - May 2007
Martin and Osa Johnson, Wensleydale Creamery, Malham Tarn, Thomas Cook, Northern Ireland's Tourism Rebuild, Jamestown Festival Park, Cite des Sciences
Idealog - April 2007
The Promenade Plantee, The Jardin des Plantes, Environmental Data, Victorian Beauty Spot Rediscovered, Jamestown, The Anglers' Country Park, Children's Museums, Fairburn Ings
Idealog - March 2007
A Sense of the Past- The 'Amsterdam', The Outdoor Classroom, Film-Induced Tourism, Making Tracks for the Coast and Country, Pictures, Context and Meaning, Classics-on-Sea, Hi Hi Everyone!, Dark Side of the Dream, Holodyne - The Action Cycle
Idealog - February 2007
Don't Go There!, Space Tourism, The Crystal Cathedral, New Books on Tourism, Dark Tourism - Undercliffe Cemetery, Showcase - The Louvre, A Class Act, First Impressions Count, Postal Pleasures, Canaletto in Venice, Serpent Mound, Capsule Culture etc
Idealog - January 2007
Capsule Culture,Seaside Style, Poble Espanyol, Mallorca, Edgar Dale, Children's Holiday Homes, Representations of Reality, Outdoor Education in Germany, Baedeker Guides, Geography Textbooks, Environmental Data Theory etc
Idealog - December 2006
Writers on Landscape, Story Books, The Deep, Flour Power and the Archers,Showcases: Grand Tour, Halifax Piece Hall, Books of Concern about Tourism, Tourist Traces, Tourist Typologies, The Growth of Educational Tourism, The Field Studies Council, etc
Idealog - November 2006
A blog of ideas, comments and notes
Travel To Understand: Belfast
Telling the stories of troubled times
World Quiz 2010
Geography with a tourism angle
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
An outstanding educational facility in California
Chicago: Tourism Re-Imaging
A closer view of an iconic city
Colonial Williamsburg
A Virginia history showcase
A Social Club Outing By Train, 1935
How to do Scotland in 30 hours flat
Going Dutch
Presenting the past in the Netherlands
Keukenhof: Business is Blooming
Using tourism to promote an industry
A View of Italy for the City
Trentham Gardens Revived
A Case Study in Heritage Management
A curious tale of misleading publicity
Old Rice Farm
The story of the house in the 'holler'
Perfection in Paradise: The Eden Project
New page being added: The Eden Project's design for success
Escaping From Slavery: Facing Our Past
The US National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Prague Tourist Shows
Outstanding showcase attractions in the city
Retracing the Steps: Tourism as Education
ATLAS Conference paper given in Finland, 2000
Tourism and Historic Towns: The Cultural Key
A background paper for a Council of Europe Conference
The Social Helix
Visitor Interpretation as a Tool for Social Development, 1989
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 1
Reports and Pictures
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 2
Photos and reports of Friday 17 Feb onwards
Malta Residential, 14-21 February 2006 - Page 3
Reports and pictures from Sunday, 19 February onwards
Tourism Alumni Reunion, 8 March 2003
Leeds tourism students reunion 2003
World Geography Quiz 1
A test of your knowledge
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
The answers
Tall Ships Race 2010 Converged on Hartlepool
A major event-based boost for tourism in the town
Plymouth: From the Tamar to the Sea
Starting point for explorations round the globe
Plimoth Plantation
A reconstruction of the Mayflower settlers' village of the 1620s on the north east coast of North America
World Geography Quiz 2010 - Answers
Geography with a tourism angle
World Geography Quiz - Answers
Christmas Quiz 2009 - Answers
A day in the city including the Botanic Garden
Tourist Showcases
Examples from around the world

Impressions of Tourism in Cuba

Cuba impressions

Being at a conference in Cuba was the first time I had been into the Tropics. It was also the first time seeing a country in which events had been crisis-point news when I was at school, back in 1959-62. So it gave me plenty of my own preconceptions to be re-examined.

The Canadian organisers of what they called an EduTourism Conference are a new grouping. They set out to promote educational tourism studies. They are mainly from a business training background, which was reflected in the range of speakers chosen. However, they had seen my web site and got in touch earlier this year. After some discussion and necessary paperwork for the Cuban immigration people I prepared a presentation and travelled over there. I'm glad to say it was well received. The conference produced good discussions and lively insights and was backed up by some highly enjoyable social events and entertainments. There was time to travel into the old city centre of Havana and, with my ex-colleague still teaching at Leeds Metropolitan University, Stuart Moss, down to the Bay of Pigs with its varied attractions and history.

The paper work to get in to Cuba was rather complex, and then it turned out that to get an entrance visa was a formality and could have been done for free on arrival in Havana - apparently. The embassy web site was very clear - visas had to be obtained and the documentation supplied, or else, no entry. I took the postal option via the London Embassy, which cost me 30. When Stuart and I each arrived at the Cuban immigration desk in Havana we found people filling in forms for free and going straight through.

The place was reasonably hot though cloudy and the tail end of hurricane Tomas had blown up a few winds - not all that much, but waves crashing over the breakwater in front of the hotel meant flooded roads. One night, someone picked us up to go to a restaurant and the car had to drive through several inches of water as it set off. At the end of my week there were two days' hot, bright-sunny weather when the sun-blocker was really needed, so that was more like the tropical experience.

The people are very mixed in all kinds of senses - ethnically, socially and economically, which made for interesting and varied experiences. Everyone we met was very friendly. That included them being very welcoming towards a US academic who was taking part. I'm sure there are people not keen on these relatively rich tourists who stay in 5* hotels that the Cubans can't use - there is a separate currency, the convertible peso, needed for touristy places. Cubans get national pesos as well as some convertible pesos. There will be resentments. Tourists get a little hassled, but so long as you say "no thank you" they go away immediately - just a few exceptions. Since health, welfare and education are all free and of high standard (100% literacy rate, very good medical facilities whoever you are) then I suspect begging - which goes on - is by people with particular problems. Selling cheap souvenirs is aimed at extra income towards what little luxuries, or additional basics, are wanted. I met an elderly pensioner and her husband who offered me plastic necklaces or coins with Ché Guevara on them. They weren't hassling and they spoke a little English and were delightful to sit with while I awaited a shuttle bus back to the hotel.

Cuba impressions 02

Our base was the Melià Cohiba, described in one guide book as the best-resourced hotel in Cuba. It has good guest and meeting rooms, five restaurants, a night club and shops. It even had toilet rolls, which most lavatories in restaurants and attractions did not have. Many had no toilet seat either, just the cold basin to sit on. Taking your own toilet paper was the rule. Someone said that as a poor country it wasn't surprising. As a place with high health standards, I was surprised. The wash basin plug is also a rare animal in Cuba, with just a few of them in captivity in the posh hotels.

Besides the fun and frolics of the conference - well, fun, anyway - we had dinner in the night club one evening, followed by the stage show. A 12-piece swing/jazz band performed. There was a male singing group performing a capella, scat and accompanied songs. A female singer followed who belted out numbers very professionally but - like them all - too loudly for my taste, using amplifiers. Then the Havana Cafe's own Latin Folk Ballet performed. This dancing troupe numbered a couple of dozen. They were incredible. Not being an attendee of night clubs I might not be the best judge. But for professionalism, energy, speed, singing and dancing ability through an hour, or whatever it was, of inventive performance I think they would have taken some beating.

On the next night we watched dancers (some of the same group, possibly) put on a water ballet show at the outdoor swimming pool. They danced around the edge then jumped in fully clothed and danced and swam in the pool, hopped out, pirouetted on 'dry land' then dived back in. Skilful, but to my eyes I have to say rather odd.

Cuba impressions 03

Another evening we ate as a group in an open air restaurant in Cathedral Square. Good food (as it virtually always was during our visit) and friendly company in a lovely setting. Cubans, Canadians, Brits and others mixed together with warmth and good fellowship.

When Stuart and I hired a taxi to go to see the Bay of Pigs area we had an excellent driver named Robert who spoke good English and could explain many things about Cuba. There were bananas and grapefruits growing, sugar cane, fields of vegetables and animals from goats to cattle and horses. The chivi - I think that is its name but I can't find it on Google - is raised for its skin for use in drums. You can't beat it.... We also visited an alligator/crocodile farm where there are thousands of them - some to replenish wild stocks taken for food - others for breeding, many others being killed for the local restaurant. We were not keen on the guide prodding them with a long stick to get them to lash out. We also found ourselves given a medium-size croc (snout roped shut) to hold for photos (small charge made here) and realised it might be counted a non-kosher activity. Er - perhaps I need a different phrase there. The crocodile looked rather peeved at the whole thing. But the action earned something more for the farmer and the beast was probably going to finish up as a meat course anyway. Playing the grinning tourist is, however, a rather dubious exercise.

The Museum of the Revolution in Havana is a mixed affair - much book-on-the-wall, few objects and a weak sense of good story-telling in the indoor galleries, but some impressive vehicles outside which were used in the 1959 revolution. These ranged from fighter aircraft to home-made tanks converted from tractors. The Cuban revolutionaries were in the ploughshares-into-swords phase in those days. The display style applied for the Museo Giron commemorating the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. That was the one organised by the CIA, using Cubans who had fled after the revolution having supported the unpopular president Fulgencio Batista. They might possibly have been engaged in the corruption, gambling and prostitution rackets that gave 1950s Cuba the soubriquet of ‘brothel of the USA’.

These are such important stories but they need much better telling in the two museums. We did have Cuban Tourism Ministry people at the conference, though, and they were very open about needing to improve the standards of those attractions. This included the importance of adding English-language interpretation on displays. All were in Spanish - the museums are considered primarily for educating Cuban school children, and only with the growing reliance on tourist income over the last twenty years do they have to match the needs of new audiences. Yet the early Cuban history museum in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza - a fortress in Old Havana - was one of the best I have ever seen, even though all the interpretive text was in Spanish only.

Cuba impressions 04

The events I read about in newspapers, saw on television or heard about in school concerning Cuba some fifty years ago were political milestones. Between 1956 and 1959 Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara and others led the successful revolution which overthrew a corrupt regime. They founded the modern communist state of Cuba. After centuries of colonial exploitation, often of the worst kind, Cuba could stand up for itself.

But the USA government did not like the idea of a communist state in its own back yard. This was despite having imposed an arms embargo on Batista’s government in 1958, helping to bring it down. As nationalisation and a communist system slowly took over (cleaning up the mafia-run gambling and prostitution rackets at the same time) the Kennedy government in the US turned to the CIA and tried to assassinate Castro after he became president. 1961 saw the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs invasion. CIA-trained Cubans who had fled to Florida invaded their former country at a location on its southern coast. They were easily defeated by Cuban soldiers, trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. The country was becoming a focus of the cold war and in danger of becoming the scene of devastatingly hot wars. The US had placed nuclear missiles in Turkey and the Middle East, targeted on the Soviet Union. The Soviets sent similar missiles towards Cuba in late 1962. John F Kennedy threatened their direct destruction. After several tense days negotiations led to the Soviet Union withdrawing the missiles and the US taking back those placed in the Middle East and Turkey, at the same time promising not to try invading Cuba again.

Cuba completed its move towards a Soviet-style communist state in 1963. The USA imposed a diplomatic and economic embargo. Cuba could have been crippled were it not for its political protector and mentor the Soviet Union which stepped up economic and other forms of assistance. Amongst the latter were the supply of transport vehicles and the construction of a three-lanes-each-way highway from Havana to the eastern extremity of Cuba. This could be used to move troops quickly in case the USA went back on its promise of non-invasion. It is also a reminder that treaty obligations under the Platt Amendment of 1901 gave the USA the right to a naval base in Guantànamo Bay, the site of the US prison camp for alleged 9/11 plotters and others.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s its economic support for Cuba evaporated. Cuba entered a ‘Special Period’. This saw increases in tourism and an acceptance of a bigger part for private enterprise. The latter grew from around 8% in 1981 to some 22% in 2006. Tourism from overseas was allowed in segregated areas. After 1997 these restrictions were ended, allowing visitors to mingle openly with Cubans. However the US dollar was banned – it could be exchanged for pesos but only at a high commission rate. The use of US credit cards was also banned. A system of national pesos and convertible pesos was introduced, the former for Cubans and the latter mainly for tourists and made available only within Cuba itself. Cubans receive part of their pay in convertible pesos and so can make some use of tourist facilities. But it is a confusing system.

This is the background to the tourist activity in Cuba. Perceptions on both sides – hosts and guests – can be very ingrained and perhaps deeply erroneously. At present the people I have heard from in the UK who have been to the country have generally enjoyed the experience. Most have been only to resorts such as Varadero however, whereas in many destinations their experience of the ‘real’ country and its people has been strictly limited. During our conference it was suggested that the Cuban Ministry of Tourism could try to tempt people who had enjoyed resorts there to return and spend time in the capital. My own straw poll conducted on Facebook suggested that many people would like to have seen more of Cuba. Independent travellers would also be a good potential market. However, variable information from the Cuban Embassies and a refusal because of federal US law for web sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz to handle flights to Cuba cause difficulties. For those who do want to go, that excellent Scottish-based website skyscanner.com works very well. I flew with KLM and Martinair – both part of the Air France group now. For many years Canada has supplied most of the tourists going to Cuba – it does not take part in the US embargo. Interestingly, Britain has now become the second most important market.

Cuba is a mix of a country: advanced in terms of education and health, crippled in terms of economics by the loss of Soviet support and the continued embargo by the United States. As private enterprise grows there I suspect that the embargo has long been counter-productive. Had the US lifted it years ago I think there would have been a fair chance that, as in all the other communist and ex-communist countries of the world (bar North Korea), Cuba would be now be moving rapidly towards at least a mixed economy in the style of China.

I get the impression long-established attitudes in the USA, usually on the Republican right, have become entrenched. If US citizens were free to travel and see for themselves what Cuba is like and how welcoming its people are, then their fear of the political system there would, again as in the case of China, begin to disappear. Tourism can break down such psychological barriers.


Cuba impressions 05
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