Immersion Institute
December 10 - 15, 2017 Havana, Cuba

Immersion Institute

Dive into a Destination Like Never Before

Destinations International and George Washington University announce an exciting new program for destination professionals seeking even more immersive, hands-on learning.

What is the focus of the December 2017 Immersion Institute?

Urban tourism is a global force that requires knowledge, innovation and action to ensure sustainable and equitable destination development. Tourism development within a destination has not always received the adequate attention by designers, developers and managers of urban places. Conversely, urban development and place management has not generally been a priority for the tourism industry and destination organizations. Therefore, the challenges is how to design and manage walkable urban spaces in cities to facilitate access within the destination, increase the quality of the visitor experience, and to foster positive community development relationships between all stakeholders to ultimately stimulate the co-creation of identity-based tourism experiences.

Based on research developed by The Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis (CREUA) and the International Institute of Tourism Studies (IITS) at George Washington’s School of Business, Destinations International Immersion Institute will introduce practical tools on how to design and manage walkable urban places, discuss how established destination organizations can work with stakeholders and the community to address missing levels of management practices and governance, and on-location experiential learning activities will be programmed examining the city of Havana.

Who should attend?

  • CEOs of destination organizations or CVBs
  • Government officials engaged in economic development, urban planning, tourism development, arts and culture, transportation and infrastructure, and open parks and public spaces.
  • Tourism stakeholders including cultural heritage organizations, historic preservation districts, architects/planners, public relations and media specialists.

What topics will be covered?

  • Key concepts will include walkable urbanism, economic performance, social equity, visitor economy, placemaking and destination management.
  • Walkable Urban Places as spaces to visit, live and work.
  • The role of placemaking, event and heritage tourism in destination management.
  • Successful cases studies of innovative city and destination management programs.
  • Critical assessment of localized place management models.
  • Discussion of social equity issues related to affordable housing, public transit access, safety and security, job availability, health facilities and quality schools.
  • Understanding of the critical role of citizen participation in the planning and management of walkable urban places.
  • Guided field seminars in Old Havana.


The inaugural event takes place in Cuba. Participants will arrive in Havana on Sunday, December 10. The Institute starts at 9:00 AM on Monday, December 11 and concludes at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, December 13.

An optional component of field visits is also available. Field visits will occur during the afternoon of December 13 and all day on Thursday, December 14. Participants will return to the U.S. on Friday, December 15. 

Sunday, December 10 – Arrival

Arrival in Havana
Money exchange at the airport
Transfer to the hotel
Check-in at Hotel Capri

6:00 PM | Orientation meeting with local coordinators

7:30 PM | Welcome dinner (included)

Monday, December 11 – Institute

9:00 AM | Seminar - key concepts related to walkable urban tourism, possible meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Tourism

10:30 AM | Coffee break

10:45 AM | Walkability and urban development trends and challenges

12:00 PM | Lunch (included)

2:30 PM | Meeting with the Historian Office - The Cuban Experience: The role of the Oficina del Historiador in creating a walkable world-class tourist destination in Old Havana

4:00 PM | Walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Explore the historical and oldest district of Havana. Walk along Plaza Vieja, Mercaderes street, Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral.

6:00 PM | Return to the hotel

8:00 PM | Dinner on your own

Tuesday, December 12 – Institute

9:00 AM | Seminar - Tourism oriented walkable placemaking and management - International Approaches

10:30 AM | Coffee break

10:45 AM | Tourism oriented walkable placemaking and management - the Cuban Experience

12:30 PM | Lunch (included)

2:30 PM | Field Work - Centro Habana and Vedado – Creative Industry Initiatives, Community Engagement and Visitor Experiences

5:30 PM | Return to the hotel

8:00 PM | Dinner on your own

Wednesday, December 13 – Institute

9:00 AM | Seminar - Final assessment and knowledge exchange session with Cuban leaders

10:30 AM | Coffee break

10:45 AM | Innovation circle – applying lessons learned to your own destination

12:30 PM | Lunch (included)

2:00 PM | Farewell cocktail with Cuban guests

Wednesday, December 13 – Field Visits (Optional)

4:00 PM | Discover the history of the Mafia in Cuba - Tour with Cuban journalist and writer Ciro Bianchi the sites, bars, hotels, former casinos and boulevards where the Mafia operated in Havana since the decade of the 1930s until 1959.

6:00 PM | Return to the hotel

8:00 PM | Dinner on your own

Thursday, December 14 – Field Visits (Optional)

9:00 AM | Departure from hotel

9:30 AM | Visit to a tobacco factory

11:00 AM | Visit to a rum factory

12:30 PM | Lunch (included)

2:30 PM | Visit to Taller Experimental La Gráfica, a collective training school for printmakers. A great opportunity to meet face-to-face with various prestigious and emerging artists.

4:00 PM | Enjoy a great Cuban coffee at a local private business

5:00 PM | Return to the hotel

8:00 PM | Dinner on your own

Optional Evening Activities

  1. 8:00 PM Visit to Fabrica de Arte Cubano (2 CUC - Cuban Convertible Peso - cover not included)
  2. 9:00 PM Visit to Tropicana (75, 85 or 95 CUC cover not included) (cover depends on the position of your table)
  3. 10:00 PM Optional Jazz Club La Zorra y El Cuervo (10 CUC cover not included)

Friday, December 15 – Departure

Hotel check-out
Transfer to the airport
Departure to U.S.

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