Last updated: 11:19 AM ET, Wed July 06 2016

Focus On Havana

Our leader, travAlliancemedia founder and CEO Mark Murphy, offers first-hand advice on selling the hot destination after his recent visit.

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Mark Murphy

Focus On Havana

Selling Cuba is about selling the experience. Despite the overuse of that term, it truly applies to your approach to this destination. The experience begins and ends, in my opinion, with the Cuban people themselves.

One of the first things American visitors will encounter is the warmth of the people and how they actively embrace the American market. Residents who have seen a limited number of Americans visiting for years are truly excited about the prospects of the growth in visitors that are anticipated in the years to come. The excitement is palpable.

Carnival Corp.’s Fathom Adonia, the first U.S.-based ship to sail to Cuba in many decades, was my vehicle for entry into Cuba. A crowd showed up to cheer us as we entered Havana. Although such greetings may diminish over ti me, travelers will continue to find many compelling encounters as they explore the country.

All you have to do is start walking.


A visit to Havana centers on the four main plazas, all within walking distance in historic Old Havana. They are, in no particular order, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de la Revolucion, Plaza de La Catedral and Plaza Vieja. Each plaza is unique in what can be discovered and are must stops for any traveler to Cuba.

Leisurely strolling through these plazas will provide travelers with a look into the past, a feeling of the present and a clear picture of the future for this destination. Exploring the plazas can be accomplished in less than a full day, accounting for some stops along the way to watch street musicians, have a conversation with some locals under a tree, eat lunch or grab some fresh-squeezed juice.


For those who love architecture and are looking for the perfect canvas to create lasting images, you can barely walk 10 feet before the next photo opportunity presents itself. With many buildings restored, or in the process of being restored, Old Havana harkens back to an era that predates many of us who travel there. That’s what makes this place so fascinating.

Step beyond Old Havana into some local neighborhoods, and the images are even more stunning for photographers. For outside of the main tourist areas one will discover incredible backdrops for capturing iconic photos. Dusty, deteriorating buildings in earth tones create a visual contrast to the brightly colored vintage automobiles that ply the roads.


The old American automobiles cruising the streets of Havana are legendary. They are one of the biggest draws for travelers who are in love with how Cuba seems frozen in ti me. The owners ingeniously keep them going, manufacturing their own parts given the inability to access parts from the U.S. You can’t walk down a street or stand on a corner without seeing one of these cars cruising past.


Clients who visit Cuba will be surprised by the recepti on that they receive. Today, more than ever, Cubans are openly discussing the opening of their country to America, their politics and their enthusiasm for the future with America. Sitting on a step in Plaza de San Francisco 10 minutes aft er arriving on land, I took in the sights and sounds.

Within another five minutes, three men in their 40s asked me where I was from, and when hearing I was from America, immediately lit up. We spent 20 minutes chatting as I asked them about their country and what it means to have U.S. travelers beginning to show up in greater numbers. It was fascinating to get their raw take and hear their honest assessment of what life in Cuba is like.

Cuba is a living museum that has to be experienced while it still seems set in the 1950s. Time will change much about this island nation as its U.S. tourism numbers continue to expand.

That’s a good thing for the people of Cuba, who struggle in a significant way, and a reason to push your clients to experience it now.


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the June 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


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