Without cruise ships, port-area private workers face economic doom

Business owners describe drop in income as steep

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent

HAVANA - Since the Donald Trump administration instituted travel restrictions on Cuba, which ended cruise ship travel, some private sector workers in Havana have seen a precipitous drop in business. 

Carlos Marquez is always proud to show off the different photographs of famous visitors stacked feet high on the walls of his Central Havana restaurant, San Cristobal. 

His restaurant gained notoriety when former President Barack Obama and his family visited Havana and dined in the same room where Marquez complained of the troubles his business is now facing.  

“Until now, we’re not getting many morning reservations,” added Marquez, who added the afternoon and evening reservations are sporadic. 

He reminded us of the glory days, just weeks ago, when groups of 30 cruise travelers would show up at the restaurant. 

Since the ships stopped coming, Marquez estimates he has lost about 80% of clients. 

Vladimir Cardenas remembered the busy, port-side avenue where he would drive his horse-drawn carriage and make between $10 and $20 a day.

In the couple weeks since the cancellation of cruises, Cardenas may go days without getting any customers. To make things worse, June is part of low season and the number of visitors naturally drops. 

“Things are tough now,” Cardenas, 57, said. 

Cardenas and several other horse-drawn carriage drivers waited outside the San José Warehouses, usually a haven for tourists looking for Cuban art and souvenirs. 

“We practically don’t sell anything,” said Dayana Silot, whose store sells mainly T-shirts with Cuban logos. 

The cruise ships brought sales stability, but she said that’s gone. Often, many workers at the warehouses go home without making any money. 

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