Cuba ratifies ban on private tourist guides and agencies

Photo: Ernesto Verdecia

By Ely Justiniani Perez (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feito Cabrera, has ratified the ban on exercising the profession of tourist guide in the private sector. A letter dated December 28, 2021 was delivered this week to the six representatives of a large group of tourist guides who are requesting that their activity be legally recognized as an independent activity. So far they are unlucky.

The letter states that travel agencies and tour operators “are associated with tourism products developed and marketed by the tourism business system of the State of Cuba and, according to the policy of the Ministry of Tourism, these cannot be marketed by natural persons, nor may they work as part of private micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, cooperatives or self-employed.

This negative response comes after almost a year since more than a thousand people linked to the sector have called for the legalization of this activity. They organized and sent petitions to relevant ministries and even engaged in conversations with officials of these institutions. Here is a summary of this process.


February 10, 2021 the Ministry of Labor and Social Security published a list of 124 economic activities prohibited in the Cuban private sector; including tour operator services and travel agencies. This has led to heated debate from those connected with tourism services.

In the weeks that followed, dozens of people linked to the sector began to mobilize and send letters to the corresponding bodies. They also shared an online petition for the legalization of private travel agencies and the document was signed by over 1500 people.

May 20, 2021 In response, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security wrote a written response to one of its signatories saying that “with the new social/economic strategy to push the national economy in the interests of encouraging local development and production links between the public sector and the private sector forms of management, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, together with the Ministry of Tourism, analyzes the advisability of authorizing these activities and others related to the sector tourism.

June 7, 2021 the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba published Resolution 132/21 of the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), a new set of regulations for “national travel agencies”.

Although the regulations do not explicitly state who can establish these agencies; it recognizes that Cuban natural persons (including self-employed persons) can be “providers of tourist services” who offer “the sale of these in groups, programs, circuits, excursions or other tourist services” through the intermediary of national travel agencies. It doesn’t explain how this relationship would work; but the lack of clarity in these regulations was also a beacon of hope for the most optimistic.

August 19, 2021 Much to the disappointment of many, the activity of travel agencies and tour operators has reappeared on the prohibited list in a new series of decrees and resolutions that regulate private sector businesses (including MSMEs, cooperatives and self-employed).

September 22, 2021 In the face of continued complaints, officials from the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security agree to meet with six representatives of the Facebook group Guides Turísticos por su legalización como TCP (Tour Guides wanting to legalize themselves as independents), which at the time had over 800 members (today there are 1100).

At this meeting, MINTUR asked the guides to hand in written project proposals so that they can “better understand how far they want to go so that they can identify the bureaucracy to which the activity “tourist guide” would be faced as an independent, to legislate and find a solution to this bureaucracy and give them broad and unrestricted participation,” according to a summary of the meeting that was published by members of the group.

January 7, 2022 The representatives of the group of Guides Turísticos por su legalización como TCP who participated in the meeting with MINTUR and MTSS receive a letter from Minister Feito, who ratified the ban on the practice of tourist guides and travel agencies, both as independent activities, as well as MSMEs and cooperatives.

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