As Cuba prepares for an influx of American tourists and businesses, the government turned to a Spanish analytics firm to help it crunch big data to improve hotels and infrastructure.
While Cuba has never stopped receiving a regular influx of tourists from Canada, Latin America, and Europe, the potential growth the US market offers is enormous. Currently Cuba receives around 2.8 million visitors every year, half of them from Canada. Mintur, the Cuban Tourist Ministry, estimates that if Americans were free to travel to Cuba today, the number of visitors would increase by two million the first year.
Last year the Cuban government was interested in getting its hands on analytics software to process the data generated by visitors on social networks. The idea was to quickly identify problems at government-run hotels and tourist facilities.
Because of the existing ban on American companies supplying technology to Cuba, Havana had to look somewhere else and found SocialVane, a small Spanish company on the island of Menorca, which has been working with the local tourist sector to analyze issues, trends, and potentials of the tourism industry.
The SocialVane platform was specifically designed by tourist industry professionals for the public administration to monitor and help make decisions about the health and challenges faced by its cities, tourist operators, and the overall tourist sector.
The fact that Cuba is able to turn to an analytics and big data provider to help its tourism industry at a time when that sector can grow substantially, shows how far this field has come from when only the largest firms could afford data scientists to crunch huge data sets.
The SocialVane platform was first piloted in Cuba with a handful of hotels. When the Cuban government saw the potential and benefits, it decided to run it at a national level.
I had the opportunity to talk with Hugo Sánchez, SocialVane’s CMO, in the company’s Barcelona office. He shared with me what the Cuban government is currently using the platform for:
Monitoring each of their hotels and tourist establishments; Monitoring all social media chatter in the main tourist locations; Collecting all mentions of Cuba in social networks; Categorizing and segmenting all that information Using the platform. Cuba has a much better overall view of what is happening in the region.
The biggest challenge, however, is the quality of Internet connections.
The Cuban government’s ban on satellite communication and the import of American networking equipment doesn’t help. According to Ookla’s Net Index, Cuba’s global ranking for Internet speed is 196 out of 200, averaging 1.6 Mbps, just ahead of Guinea, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, and Niger. The White House fact sheet published in December, right after the announcement of renewed diplomatic relations, says that: “Cuba has an Internet penetration of about five percent — one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited.”
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