At 12:00 noon on Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced his plans for the administration to improve the decades-old, dysfunctional relationship between the United States and Cuba.
“Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world,” Obama said in a statement announcing his decision.
In a single move that no one saw coming (reportedly, the president has been in secret talks with Cuban officials for the past year and a half), the president has made it his business to put an end to the travel and commerce restrictions that have been in place for the past 54 years.?
And the small business sector – namely Black business owners – couldn?t be more pleased.?
?We [National Black Chamber of Commerce] have taken two trade missions to Cuba in 2000 and 2001 before. We actually started making some headway there with Cuba?s Chamber of Commerce and with business owners and then we couldn?t go back anymore because President George Bush stopped all travel to Cuba. But this is going to have a serious impact on the Caribbean and Western world. We are very excited that our small businesses will be able to interact with the Cuban population,? Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, an organization dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity within the U.S. and via interaction with the African Diaspora, told TNJ.com.?
The tightening of U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba came in 2004, when the Bush administration said that Fidel Castro?s government had taken steps to destabilize relations with the U.S. from 2003 to 2004.?
But this week?s development is expected to quash old restrictions an open the door to renewed business opportunities. And according to Obama administration officials, the turnaround could take place as soon as next month when the president uses ?broad executive power? to press his case ? regardless of ?angry congressional opposition.????????
With trade restrictions loosening and tourism possibilities expanding, Black hoteliers stand to benefit. Andy Ingraham, president and CEO, National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, told TNJ.com that the announcement is particularly good news for the franchise shows his organization does throughout the Caribbean.?
?Since President Obama announced the news yesterday, I have already been contacted by hotel brands about investing and building in Cuba. This development can be characterized in one sentence: a new window of opportunity has opened in the Caribbean and it?s called Cuba,? says Ingraham.
He continues, ?For us, we have been waiting for years on that market to open up. From a tourism standpoint, Cuba is a pent-up market that people are curious about. Cuba has a rich history and culture that is a part of the tourism puzzle. The growth of multicultural and heritage tourism has taken off around the world whether it?s the Middle East or Africa. Cuba has been hidden from the growing consumer market. Now opened, it will open a wide range of opportunities such as development, business, travel and trade.?
Debert Cook, CMP, publisher, African American Golfer’s Digest, looks forward to a direct route to Cuba. A frequent international traveler with her golfing network, Cook embarked on a trip to Cuba last year but had to go through Jamaica first. ?It would have been a lot easier going straight to our destination. Going through Jamaica gave us an added cultural experience, but we had to wait a day. A direct route would have given us another day to enjoy Cuba. Our next trip to Cuba is in March 2015, so we look forward to an easier route,? Cook explained.??
Cook says that while in Cuba, their passports were not stamped, they could not use American dollars and they were not permitted to bring back gifts.??
?Increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans,? the president said in his press briefing on Wednesday.??
Alford agrees. ?This news will contribute towards the positive and the economic well being of this hemisphere. We?ve been waiting patiently for this. This could be a part of President Obama?s legacy. ?