Cuba's state-owned travel agencies and tourist entities will be able to book private lodgings and restaurants, the government said Thursday.
In a resolution published in the Official Gazette, the Tourism Ministry gives the green light for individuals who rent out homes and rooms or operate restaurants, known as "paladares," to offer their services to the state tourism sector.
In like manner, tourist agencies and entities will be able to book the services of private individuals or the self-employed to organize excursions for groups of visitors such as rides on horseback, in carriages or in classic or antique automobiles that are still in wide use on the island.
The tourist sector will pay for these services in convertible pesos, or CUCs, the value of which is maintained at parity with the U.S. dollar.
This new ruling is part of the set of reforms undertaken by the government of President Raul Castro to "update" the communist island's economic model.
One of the main measures included in the adjustment plan has been a controlled opening of the economy to private initiative.
More than 436,000 Cubans are self-employed in one of the roughly 200 authorized activities or professions.
Since the move toward private enterprise began in 2010 that sector has grown by 18 percent, although it still only represents 2 percent of the Cuban economy.
One of the most visible effects of the phenomenon has been the proliferation of non-state restaurants and private lodgings licensed to rent out rooms.
It is calculated that there are more than 2,200 paladares on the island, along with 6,200 available rooms and 950 homes that are properly licensed to be rented out to the public. EFE