By Portia Siegelbaum, CBS News, May 30, 2012
HAVANA -- As Cuba restructures its economy, the limited private sector is claiming more public space, even making it into the new edition of the state-owned phone company's Yellow Pages.
It's a sign that private enterprise is here to stay. This phone directory, for the first time, has 12 pages of listings and advertisements for non-state businesses: From bed and breakfasts, restaurants and photo studios, to party planners, electricians and florists.
For $10, small mom & pop companies get a listing with their company name, address and phone number. But well-established enterprises such as the "Monte Barreto Bar--Restaurant" paid bigger bucks -- about $1,300 -- and took full page color ads. La Guarida, a private restaurant popular with tourists, took a half-page ad at a cost of approximately $800. But there are also large ads for beauty salons and gyms, and photo studios specializing in weddings and other social events.
Cubans wanting granite stairs, tiles, floors or countertops will focus in on an ad by Yovany, who offers free delivery.
There's a listing for a pet hotel and three listings for swimming pool rentals, and even more for those offering rural settings with amenities for weddings and birthday parties.
In a country where billboard advertising is non-existent, the possibility of marketing in the Yellow Pages is a boom to Cuba's new private entrepreneurs. And it also represents revenues for the State.
In the absence of other advertising possibilities some private restaurants have been sending text messages or e-mails. A fairly new Indian restaurant, Bollywood, is one of the most persistent text senders. La Casa, whose owner Alejandro Robaina missed the deadline to place an ad in the Yellow Pages, sent out an e-mail earlier this week announcing the return of their former chef after ten years working cruise ships in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean and touting a newly designed menu.
But given the generally limited access to the Internet and the low percentage of cell phone subscribers, most Cubans will, for the time being, be getting their information on what's on offer from their phone books, given free to them when they paid their May phone bills.
Most observers agree that, for private businesses, access to the Yellow Pages is a step forward and they expect that in the future many more people will chose to advertise.