TIME Cuba

These 5 Facts Explain the Economic Upsides of an Opened Cuba

The Caribbean country could be the next frontier of global business

Taking Cuba off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism is the latest development that will attract foreign companies to the island. So who wants in? These five stats explain which industries present the most opportunities as Cuba opens for business.

1. Money flowing home

One of the immediate benefits of renewed relations with Cuba is the increase in permitted remittance flows. The most recent figures put annual cash remittances to Cuba at approximately $5.1 billion, a level greater than the four fastest growing sectors of the Cuban economy combined. Now, permitted remittance levels from the U.S. will be raised fourfold, from $2,000 to $8,000 per year. This will help drive an increase in spending power in Cuba, which is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 4.6% through this decade. For global companies seeking a foothold anywhere they can, more money in the pockets of Cubans means more fuel for expansion. Take Coca-Cola. With an open Cuba, Coke could be legally be sold in every country in the world save one: North Korea.

(Fortune, The White House, Euromonitor, Wall Street Journal)

2. A lot more visitors

Just 110 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba should be a natural magnet for American travelers. Despite needing to meet special criteria to receive a visa from the State Department—allowable categories include educational and journalistic activities—170,000 Americans visited the country last year. As the restrictions slacken, the sky is literally the limit. JetBlue already charters flights to Cuba from the U.S., but the budget airline wants to start running regular commercial flights. American Airlines Group now flies to Cuba 20 times per week, a 33% increase in flights compared to just a year ago. More flights—and more competition—will make airfare more affordable, driving additional tourist traffic.

(Travel Pulse, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal)

3. Communication breakthroughs

Only one in ten Cubans regularly use mobile phones and only one in twenty have uncensored access to the Internet. Even state-restricted Internet penetration currently stands at just 23.2%. The telecom infrastructure is so underdeveloped that an hour of regulated Internet connectivity can cost up to 20% of the average Cuban’s monthly salary. There’s serious demand for the major infrastructure investments needed to improve these numbers. Some start-ups are making waves in spite of shoddy internet. Airbnb, a website that lets people rent out lodging, announced that it has started booking rooms in Cuba with over 1,000 hosts. It gets around the lack of Internet by teaming with middlemen who have long worked to link tourists with bed and breakfasts.

(Wharton, Freedom House, Fast Company)

4. A cure for Cuba

Cuba has the third highest number of physicians per capita, behind only Monaco and Qatar. They’re even used as an export: Venezuela pays $5.5 billion a year for the almost 40,000 Cuban medical professionals who now make up half of its health-care personnel. Cuban doctors lack access to most American pharmaceutical products and, importantly, to third-generation antibiotics. For its part, Cuba’s surprisingly robust biotech industry makes a number of vaccines not currently available in the U.S. With the normalization of relations, Cuba can look to fully capitalize on its medical strengths.

(Bloomberg, World Health Organization, Modern Healthcare, Brookings)

5. Foreign investment

Cuba currently attracts around $500 million in foreign direct investment (FDI)—good for just 1% of GDP. Given its tumultuous political history and underdeveloped economy, it is difficult to accurately predict how quickly investors will flock once the embargo has been lifted. But a good comparison might be the Dominican Republic, another Caribbean nation with roughly the same size population as Cuba. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that Cuba could potentially attract as much foreign capital as the Dominican Republic, which currently receives $17 billion in FDI ($2 billion from the U.S). But this won’t happen overnight—in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, Cuba ranks 177th out of 178, ahead only of North Korea.

(Wharton, ASCE, Peterson Institute, Heritage Foundation)

TIME France

See How a Rare ‘Supertide’ Turned a French Medieval Town Into an Island

France High Tide
AP An aerial view as a "supertide" submerges a narrow causeway leading to the Mont Saint-Michel, on France's northern coast, March 21, 2015.

Mont Saint-Michel is normally accessible by a slim causeway.

Visitors witnessed Mont Saint-Michel in northwestern France become an island on Saturday, thanks to a rare “supertide” that submerged a causeway that typically provides access to the medieval community. The waters rose some 42 feet (13 meters) and temporarily disconnected the area, which is about 2,000 feet (600 meters) from land.

TIME China

Seven People Were Killed By Falling Rocks at One of China’s Top Tourist Spots

Seven tourists killed in rockfall at China beauty spot
Stringer—Imaginechina/AP In this screenshot, the huge rock is seen at the accident site after it fell off a mountain, killing seven tourists and injuring 19 tourists, at the Diecai Mountain scenic area in Guilin city, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 19 March 2015.

The tragedy happened at the famed Diecai Mountain in Guilin province

Boulders tumbled down a mountainside in China Thursday, crashing into a group of visitors waiting to board a boat at one of the country’s most picturesque travel destinations, killing seven.

State media outlet Xinhua reports that 19 others were injured.

The incident happened at Diecai Mountain near in the southern city of Guangxi. The scenic area is famous for its karst mountains dramatically rising out of rivers and lakes.

MONEY Travel

Strong Dollar Cuts Prices on European Vacations

A stronger dollar and a weaker euro are making European vacations cheaper for Americans.

TIME Aviation

U.S. Airlines Expecting Highest Passenger Numbers in 7 Years

If numbers bear out, it would be most passengers since the financial crisis

The spring travel season could see U.S. airlines post their highest passenger numbers in seven years, bolstered by rising employment and personal incomes, says industry group Airlines for America.

Some 134.8 million passengers — or about 2.2 million people per day — are projected to fly in March and April, according to a press release.

If accurate, that would mean the most airline travelers since numbers peaked in 2007 — right before the financial crisis.

The 2015 projections are a 2% boost from the 132.2 million people who flew on U.S. airlines during the same period last year.

John Heimlich, Airlines for America vice president and chief economist, said high consumer sentiment and “the continued affordability of air travel” may contribute to a busy travel season ahead.

MONEY Shopping

5 Astounding Things About America’s Biggest Mall Planned in Miami

150306_EM_mall_1
Courtesy of American Dream Mall

There will be hundreds of stores and an indoor ski slope. More surprising is the possibility of sea lion shows, submarine rides, and which group will likely be the most important customer base.

If a proposal first revealed this week in the Miami Herald is approved and actually built, the suburbs of Miami would become home to the largest mall in the U.S. It’s been estimated that the megamall will cost $4 billion to complete, but that’s hardly the only eye-popping factoid attached to the monumental project. Here are a few more:

It’ll occupy a whopping 200 acres. That’s roughly double the acreage of the Mall of America in Minnesota. The Miami megamall, dubbed the American Dream, has been proposed by a Canadian company called Triple Five. The firm also owns and manages the Mall of America, as well as another American Dream, a much-maligned complex near the East Rutherford, N.J., sports venues once known as Xanadu that’s taken more than a decade to develop and still isn’t open; and North America’s largest mall, the 5.3-million-square-foot behemoth with two hotels, a water park, and 800+ stores in West Edmonton, Canada.

The project is supposed to employ tens of thousands. Construction will reportedly require 25,000 workers, and about that many permanent jobs are expected to be needed to keep the complex running as imagined, according to Triple Five. As for the criticism that many of these jobs would be low-paying retail and tourism gigs, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the Miami Herald that all jobs are good jobs, though there seems to be some confusion as to how many jobs will actually be created. “Everybody is focused on high-paying jobs,” Gimenez said. “Not everybody is qualified for them. Twenty-thousand jobs are twenty-thousand jobs.”

There will be sea lion shows and submarine rides. Triple Five isn’t in the business of creating mere places to shop. Instead, it develops “tourism retail and entertainment complexes,” and points to a quickie Time.com post as proof that the Mall of America is the country’s “Most Popular Attraction,” drawing some 40 million visitors annually. (Meanwhile, a story from sister publication Travel & Leisure left the Mall of America off its “Most Visited Tourist Attraction” list because it wasn’t deemed culturally or historically significant.)

In any event, Triple Five markets its malls as full-fledged destinations, not simply shopping centers; one particularly ambitious plan envisioned chartered flights heading to Newark, N.J., just so rich folks the world over could visit the American Dream in the swamps of Jersey. Among the over-the-top features in the works for the American Dream Miami are an indoor ski slope, skating rink, water park, amusement park with a roller coaster, Ferris Wheel, live sea lion shows, hotels, condominiums, and submarine rides.

It’ll be neighbors with two other enormous malls. As the Miami New Times pointed out, the proposed American Dream mall is planned to be built in Miami Lakes, at the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and I-75. Given the location and scope, it would likely compete directly with two existing monster malls in greater Miami, the Aventura Mall and Sawgrass Mills—which currently rank, respectively, as the third- and seventh-largest malls in the U.S.

The mall isn’t necessarily aimed at Floridians. Instead, the key demographic that may lead to the American Dream Miami’s success (or failure) is that of wealthy international tourists. Foreign visitors constitute one-third of foot traffic at shopping hubs like the Aventura Mall, according to Miami Today, with an outsized portion coming from Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina. Canadians and Europeans come in abundance as well, and the foreigners tend to spend far more time and money during their shopping excursions than Americans because 1) they’re rich foreigners; and 2) it’ll likely be a while before they get another opportunity to go on a wild spending spree in America in the future.

Foreign visitors have even begun flocking to South Florida around Thanksgiving, and it’s not for turkey dinners. “More and more South Americans now really understand that because of the great discounts, Black Friday is a terrific time to travel to the U.S. to shop,” a Saw Grass Mills executive explained.

TIME Art

Watch a Video of British Artist Banksy in Gaza

Several of Banksy's latest graffiti pieces are highlighted

British graffiti artist Banksy, known for his subversive street art, released a two-minute video from war-torn Gaza on his website Wednesday.

“Make this the year you discover a new destination,” it wryly says, in the style of a tourism video. But instead of sandy beaches, it offers viewers a glimpse of what a Gazan sees “well away from the tourist track”: tunnels, rubble and children gazing at some of the 18,000 homes destroyed last July in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

The video also spotlights several of Banksy’s latest graffiti pieces, including images of children swinging from a surveillance tower, a parent grieving over a child in a bombed-out setting, and a kitten donning a pink bow.

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens,” Banksy writes.

“The cat found something to play with,” a Palestinian man says during the video. “What about our children?”

MONEY Tourism

Disney Theme Park Admission Is About to Cross the $100 Threshold

Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Orlando, Florida
Alamy Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Orlando, Florida

Word is out that Disney is about to jack up theme park admission prices, like it does every year. This time, a single day at the Magic Kingdom will hit three figures.

Five years ago, the price of a one-day adult ticket to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was $79. Toward the end of the summer of 2010, prices were raised, to $82. From there, prices went on a tear. Sometime in the first half of the years listed below—before the peak summer season was under way—Disney raised prices as follows:

$85 in 2011

$89 in 2012

$95 in 2013

$99 in 2014

Here we are in early 2015, and, like clockwork, another theme park admission price hike appears to be in the works. The ThemeParkInsider blog and the Orlando Sentinel have both cited inside sources that indicate price increases will be announced as soon as Sunday, February 22. This time, the price of a one-day adult admission to the Magic Kingdom is expected to cross the $100 mark—it’ll hit $105, to be exact, taxes not included.

As has become custom, single-day prices at EPCOT and Disney’s other theme parks will likely be a few dollars cheaper, and prices for children (ages 3 to 9) will be a few bucks cheaper than those for adults. The prices mentioned are all for entrance at one park on one specific day; “Park Hopper” passes that allow visitors to hit multiple theme parks on the same day cost extra—and this option is all but guaranteed to cost extra as regular admission prices rise. Likewise, theme park giant Universal Studios will likely raise prices hand in hand with Disney.

As of Friday afternoon, Disney had issued no official comment on the subject of price increases, but given its recent history, at this point it would be more of a shocker if the company decided to forgo a price hike than leap over the $100 watermark. If the one-day Magic Kingdom price hits $105 as fully expected, admissions will have risen $26 (or about 33%) in a quick five years.

It must be noted that consistently strong visitor numbers give Disney and other theme parks good reason to keep jacking up prices. Year after year of price hikes haven’t scared the crowds away; in fact, on Christmas Day 2014, Disney parks were temporarily closed to new visitors on both coasts because there were simply too many people. There’s even a certain subset of fanatical theme park goers who wish that Disney and Universal would usher in price increases so severe and sudden that they would result in a sharp dropoff in visitors, at least on peak weekends and holidays if not year-round.

Overall, what the steady climb of one-day admissions and the general pricing structures of Disney and Universal do is destroy the spontaneity of a theme park vacation. A single day’s admission costs are so extraordinarily high that they basically force families into booking discounted multiple-day tickets in advance to get some semblance of decent value. Countless websites and guidebooks lecture visitors on the necessity of making dinner and “character breakfast” reservations, among other steps, months before heading to Florida. The idea of winging a trip to Orlando’s theme parks is widely viewed as foolish, perhaps somewhat by design.

For obvious reasons, this formula works out nicely for the theme park companies. Tourists are steered away from one-day, spur-of-the-moment visits in favor of multi-day vacations, dramatically increasing opportunities that they’ll also pay up for pricey lodging, meals, “after hours” cocktail parties and other extras.

It’s easy to see how, once you open the door into a theme park vacation, costs can quickly snowball. Sorta like what’s happened to theme park admissions prices over the past few years.

TIME World

Britain Gives Tourist Attractions Very Literal Chinese Names

Derwent London Plc's Offices As Real Estate Trust To Demolish Own Savile Row Offices For Apartments
Bloomberg—Getty Images Somehow, "Custom-made for Rich People Street" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Savile Row."

Savile Row becomes 'Custom-made for Rich People Street'

In a bid to attract more Chinese travelers to its shores, the United Kingdom has a campaign underway to assign Mandarin names to many of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

Britain’s national tourism agency, VisitBritain, has released some of the most popular suggestions, and each of the 101 locations have been notified of their three most popular options.

They’ll narrow it down to one result over the coming days, but in the mean time, some of the Mandarin alternatives reveal the very literal thought process behind this initiative.

“GREAT names for GREAT Britain” takes the Shard—a fairly accurate if abstract name for the London skyscraper—and renames it “A Tower Allowing Us to Pluck Stars From the Sky” or “London Cone.” The dapper Savile Row becomes “Tall, Rich, Handsome Street” or “Custom-made for Rich People Street.” And apparently Chinese must be more skeptical than Scots, because “Loch Ness Monster” in its Mandarin form is downgraded to “Loch Ness Shadow.”

It will remain to be seen whether these English roses by any other name will smell as sweet, but Chinese tourists will be in for at least one fragrant attraction in the U.K.: Haggis, or in its new form, “Made of Sheep’s Stomach and Smells Good.”

TIME World

French Tourists to Be Deported Over Nude Photo Shoot at Cambodian Temple

CAMBODIA-TOURISM-ANGKOR
Alex Ogle—AFP/Getty Images The Angkor Wat temple complex at sunrise in Cambodia's Angkor National Park, Siem Reap province, Nov. 8, 2014.

Court claimed three men were taking naked photos for use 'in publications such as a calendar'

A trio of tourists from France were arrested for taking nude photos of each other at a world-famous Cambodian temple, and will be deported.

The three men in their early twenties were found Thursday inside Banteay Kdei temple at Angkor Archaeological Park, AFP reports, which houses Angkor Wat — a 12th-century temple and UNESCO World Heritage site.

The trio were arrested by Cambodian authorities and given a suspended prison sentence of six months, plus deportation from Cambodia and a four-year ban on coming back to the country. The men were also fined $750 each.

“They confessed to making a mistake and asked for the Cambodian people to forgive them for their actions,” prosecutor Koeut Sovannareth told AFP. The men claimed that they took the pictures as souvenirs, “but we believe that their intention was to use the photos in publications such as a calendar,” Sovannareth said.

[AFP]

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