Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tipping the balance...?

Always a little jarring when an article in a serious magazine has an infographic attached, which in some ways contradicts the views expressed by the text. 

This week the Economist bemoaned Trump's new Cuba policy, suggesting that it would damage ordinary Cubans more than anyone else, repeating the old chestnut about Americans tipping better than anyone else. 

But, lookee here. Non-Cuban US visitors have provided only a small part of the big jump in overall visitor numbers since 2011. One would have to be inclined to factor into this sudden surge individuals from other nations hurrying to the island to see it before the group marked in red have totally spoiled it.  

Going forward, Trump's new policy shouldn't deter Americans of Cuban heritage. And if each successive administration fiddles with the guidelines  appropriately, one could even surmise that a perpetual 'The Americans are coming, no they're not, yes they are..' sequence might keep the bubble inflating nicely. 

The anonymous author of the piece appears to suggest that most of the users of Airbnb, which has collected $40m in revenue on the island since 2015, are US nationals. Yet even if this were the case, it's not entirely clear to me that this company could not further benefit from the new prohibition on patronising state/military-owned hotels. Can't tour companies block book using such a service? 

And anyone who thinks the Yanks are the world's best tippers should take a look at some of our ex-pat forums here in Guatemala. (I won't easily forget the advice given by one regular American user of tuctucs in La Antigua - that one should just throw ten quetzales down on the ground and run.) 

When I first went to Cuba in 2011 for a wedding at an all inclusive resort, I was intrigued how the Canadians all seemed to have a mysterious supply of small change to tip the staff even where no cash transaction was involved. Are they really that much meaner than their southern neighbours?  Along with the 'Europeans' - of possibly more questionable generosity - their numbers have increased in roughly equal proportion to the Americans since the boom began. 

If I were an 'ordinary Cuban' I'd not be so worried, though there's a case to be made that the Canadians are somewhat seasonal and that grouchy old French lefties are a dying breed.

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