I, for one, can’t wait for the opportunity to travel to Cuba, and I plan to get there quickly before the deluge of gringos introduces Spanglish as a new Cuban dialect. Cuba is unique in every sense of the word. It’s like digging up a 55-year-old time capsule full of pristine vintage cars, Castro paraphernalia and revolutionary resilience since the trade embargo. With the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and President Obama’s historic trip to the nation this week, U.S. businesses are beginning to lay the groundwork for international expansion to the Caribbean island.
In fact, a growing number of American companies are already navigating the uncharted business landscape. San Francisco startup Stripe Inc. is targeting its online payments system to Cuban entrepreneurs. Hotel chains like Starwood and Marriott, along with multiple airlines and cruise lines, are looking to take advantage of what looks to be an imminent tourism boom.
This shift in policy affects more than just financial institutions and tourism industries. It’s a game-changer for professional sports organizations like Major League Baseball, paving the way for an easier passage for players to sign in the U.S. and easing travel bans for athletic events and family visits.
As international opportunities increase by more than 42,000 square miles and 11 million people, so does the potential for a brand new wave of consumers demanding U.S. services in Cuba. Although the interest in expansion to Cuba has accelerated, there’s still a great deal of regulations and policies left to address before businesses place a stake in the ground – leaving plenty of time to strategize. But before we bombard the island with fanny packs and business proposals, it is imperative as public relations professionals that we take the first step and begin to build relationships.
Cuba has been relatively untouched by the U.S. for more than five decades and although the anticipation is palpable, both countries have distinct cultural perspectives that have yet to interact. This is where communication is crucial. Uninformed plans based on U.S. customs and preferences will fall on deaf Cuban ears. Brands on both sides will need to create well-informed messages that effectively convey an understanding of both cultural experiences. As rigid restrictions begin to fade, the opportunity will be ripe to establish connections – leading to limitless business possibilities. It’s an exceptional opportunity to bridge two nations and drive unrivaled results for companies looking to expand.
International relations between the U.S. and Cuba are evolving quickly with potential for immense cultural influence across borders. As we learn more about Cuban culture (it’s more than just cigars), communications and marketing professionals can give clients educated and intelligent counsel to pursue this new landscape full of fruitful business opportunities.
Sally McDonald is an account executive at Cookerly PR.