Tourism Industry Finds a New Market in Cuba

Many international hotel chains are looking to capitalize on the growing tourism in Cuba now that U.S.-Cuban relations are getting warmer. Many old buildings that have been allowed to lie fallow are being converted into hotels.

“Now I actually see cranes on construction sites. Cuban bureaucracy is easing up, and foreign hotel developers are finally finding ways to move these projects forward,” said Belmont Freeman, a Cuban-American architect based in New York.

One of the new luxury hotels leading the trend is the 246-room Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana. It will be located in a restored European-style shopping arcade. Like many other hotels, it comes with charm and history. It originally opened in 1875 and was visited by Winston Churchill. The Manzana, which is scheduled to open in early June, is being financed by the Cuban state company Almest Investments and co-managed by the Swiss Kempinski and the Gaviota Group of Cuba.

The French groups Accor and Iberostar are also opening other new and renovated luxury hotels in the area.

Although the Cuban government owns all the hotels in the country, major luxury international hotel chains like Kempinski, Accor, and Iberostar will co-manage these new properties.

The U.S. Starwood Hotel chain has also entered the Cuban market with its Four Points by Sheraton Havana property, which opened in June of 2016 in the Miramar district of Havana, popular with diplomats and business travelers. Starwood was recently acquired by Marriott International, which will now manage the former Starwood hotels and which has also been authorized to manage properties in Cuba.

Despite all these new hotels, the tourism boom is not without problems. Many projects have suffered lengthy delays caused by shortages of supplies and frequent electricity and Internet outages, as well as crumbling infrastructure. The juxtaposition of the poverty resulting from the Cuban Revolution and the new luxury buildings and the wealthy customers they attract is creating an uncomfortable atmosphere.

“People are watching the Manzana closely,” said John Kavulich, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “There is a tremendous amount of pressure to maintain the Kempinski experience, and that will be difficult in Cuba.”

The Cuban government, which will continue to hold significant power over private enterprise in the country, is hoping tourism will help solve some of its economic problems. They have established a goal of attracting 10 million visitors by 2030.

10 Million People At Risk If North Korea Nukes Seoul

Photo: A crowded shopping district in Seoul, South Korea.
Image credit: TungCheung / Shutterstock

Today, an anchor from North Korea’s state-controlled KRT broadcaster warned that the region is “close to nuclear war.” According to NBC News, the threat comes just hours after the U.S. conducted a military drill in which they flew two B-1B Lancer bombers near the peninsula.

“Due to the U.S. military provocations that are becoming more explicit day by day, the situation in the Korean peninsula that is already sensitive is being driven to a point close to nuclear war,” the anchor said, as per a translation by Reuters.

But that’s not all. Other North Korean media outlets have issued similar warnings. An opinion article titled “Nuclear War Will Bring Nothing but Doom to U.S.” called the military drills “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war.” The article was published in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

And while experts agree that North Korea doesn’t yet have nuclear warheads capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, it still poses a significant risk to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Located just 25 miles from the North Korean border, the bustling city is a huge target and well within striking range.

If worst came to worst and Seoul were nuked, an estimated 10 million people would either die or suffer the consequences of nuclear radiation. And with about 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, there’s no doubt that there would be American casualties as well.

But the U.S. and South Korea aren’t the only countries at risk. North Korea has also threatened to reduce Japan to ashes. According to CNN, there are about 49,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

Analysts still aren’t sure what President Trump intends to do about the issue. On the one hand, President Trump has warned that a “major conflict” with North Korea could happen in the near future. But Trump has also said that he would be “honored” to meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, which would seem to imply that he was open to diplomatic talks.

Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.

Helping Agricultural Start-Ups in Kenya

A picture of Kenya's flag.

Kenya’s flag.
Image: Shutterstock

The cost of living in Kenya is largely out of sync with the financial capabilities of many of the nations’ residents. Even food has become too costly for the average citizen. In response to this, a lot of young people around the country are trying their hand at farming, both for the purpose of feeding themselves and for the purpose of making money. It’s sort of the reverse of the traditional American entrepreneur’s tale, where one starts a business in order to avoid being a farmer.

But the upswing in new farmers is following an age-old tenant of the market: capitalizing on a niche, which in this case, is one that people shouldn’t generally have to worry about. Those taking up farming to feed themselves, to make a living, or both, will be helping to fill in a gap by making food more available across the board. As more Kenyans become farmers, this should drive food prices down, making it more accessible for everyone.

Of course, getting started can be difficult, and Kenya isn’t always the easiest place to grow crops. For that reason, Peter Mumo, who grew up in eastern Kenya, started a company called Expressions Global Group, which is essentially an incubator for farmers. They help connect would-be farmers with agronomists and other professionals who can help them get started. They help select the crops that are best suited for the soil at hand. Corn is a big seller, but it also requires a lot of water (which can be hard to come by) so they push some farmers to grow kale, tomatoes, or sorghum instead.

The company even drew the attention of President Obama, who awarded Mumo a Mandela Washington Fellowship. In the future, Mumo wants to take Expressions Global Group online and start helping farmers in other countries both in Africa and around the world.

In China, Business Often Happens Over Drinks

A photo of a Chinese businessman and businesswoman toasting alcoholic beverages while dressed in professional attire.

A Chinese businessman and businesswoman toast alcoholic beverages in traditional workplace culture.
Image: Shutterstock

Are you planning on doing business with Chinese firms? Whether you’re visiting China or hosting in the United States, you should know a thing or two about Chinese drinking culture. The reason for that is drinking has played a big part in Chinese business dealings for years, and although that is changing with the younger Chinese generation, if you’re dealing with middle aged people or older, you might end up drinking a lot at meetings.

Meetings are traditionally held in restaurants, often over dinner, and revolve around a lot of toasts. Basically everyone is expected to toast, and everyone is expected to drink to a toast, which can result in people getting pretty drunk. The idea is to help loosen people up, allowing for a relaxed social environment where deals can be made. Of course, younger professionals make the argument that being drunk when you make a deal can result in things going poorly. It’s easy to forget promises made while drunk, and it’s easy to slip up and agree to deals you can’t or shouldn’t have made.

There’s a growing resistance to business drinking in China, though not to drinking itself. People still love to drink, but the way they’re doing it is changing. Going out for drinks with a client is probably still a good idea, but if you can manage to swing meetings in the office or at a café you might be better off. The increasing speed of communications also means deals are made faster, and sitting around for hours getting drunk isn’t going to help anyone keep up with those deals. There is also a rising dominance of deals being made based on information, not on the ability to socialize. Of course, changes like this take time, so if you’re doing business with the Chinese, make sure to read up on drinking culture, just in case.

Artist X-ray Portraits of Richard III’s Skull Bring the Plantagenet King to Life

Striking skull portraits of King Richard III produced using University of Leicester X-rays.

Striking skull portraits of King Richard III produced using University of Leicester X-rays. Photo: Alexander de Cadenet/University of Leicester.

Richard III is arguably one of the most famous English kings, but until 2012 nobody was really sure where he was buried. In that year, his remains were found, identified, and then reinterred somewhere befitting a king, or at least where they wouldn’t end up under a car park.

The discovery was a feather in the cap of archeologists and geneticists alike, because it was through DNA information contained within his bones that they were able to positively identify the last Plantagenet king.

Since then, Richard III has been popping up in British popular culture with greater regularity, and most recently he’s been the star of a portrait showing at the Andipa Gallery.

It’s not your normal portrait though; those have been done of the king already. Instead it’s a portrait of his skull, using actual X-ray imaging as part of a still life.

The artist, Alexander de Cadenet, uses X-ray images of skulls to create Vanitas portraits, which, unlike most portraits designed to evoke the life of a person, focus instead of their death.

The Vanitas contain “various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures.”

The portrait isn’t immediately recognizable as Richard III, but it is he, being as it’s his skull on display. But the Vanitas isn’t supposed to evoke the person in life, and so the skull is surrounded by things that are reminiscent of that person, like a crown in Richard’s case.

The piece is only on display at the Andipa from April 14 to April 25, but it is likely that it will be on display elsewhere in the future, unless it goes to a private collector. So if you can’t make it in time, don’t be too despondent. After all, it’s just a worldly good.