And on the left, you’ll see one of Cuba’s numerous political prisons

Tour operators in Cuba today must be about as busy as sloths taking a nap. Speaking of naps, a Miami Herald article today notes that Cuba’s tourism industry is on a major siesta:

Cuba’s tourism industry, the island’s main economic engine for the past 15 years, is in a steep fall amid a mix of factors that range from rising air ticket prices to changes in tour ownerships and crumbling tourist facilities.

The first alarm rang late last year, when Ministry of Tourism (MinTur) figures showed 2.2 million people had visited the island in 2006, down from 2.3 million in 2005.

The decline has accelerated so far this year. January and February indicators show a combined drop of 7 percent compared to the same months in 2006, according to the most recent MinTur figures, with February visitation falling 13 percent.

Spanish tourists, historically the island’s third-largest group, dropped by 45 percent over both months.

In their typical slothful lack of originality, Cuba’s so-called “MinTur” lays most of the blame at the feet of the United States, specifically the Bush administration.

Too bad for them the Herald’s reporters did their jobs:

But internal MinTur documents obtained by El Nuevo Herald, independent experts and tourism-sector workers on the island show there are other serious problems not mentioned by MinTur.

Most of Cuba’s tourism facilities were built in the 1990s and have received little maintenance since then, said a MinTur official who asked for anonymity out of fear of government punishment.

”The structure created for years in the tourism industry is crumbling piecemeal,” the employee said. “Tourism in Cuba is headed for chaos and it will take years to revert the present situation.”

The MinTur documents also point to the inability of the Tourism Construction Enterprise (Emprestur) to repair hotels because of the lack of materials.

The employee said there’s also widespread dissatisfaction with the way Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz and leading managers are running things. Marrero, former president of the Gaviota Group, run by the Cuban armed forces, and a trusted aide to Cuban interim leader and Defense Minister Raúl Castro, was appointed to the post in early 2004 after the removal of Ibrahim Ferradaz amid reports of a corruption scandal.

”What’s happening in tourism is a reflection of a behavior that has spread nationwide,” said dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe on the phone from Havana. “People are disgusted with the economic situation at home, workers don’t take pride in their work and inertia corrupts the entire organization.”

People disgusted with the economy, workers not taking pride in their work, inertia and corruption. Ah yes, the blessings of socialism.