Full Circle With HabanaLive, CET's Luxury and Event Wing
February 2013. It was the dead of winter in Cambridge, and as Michael Laverty and I crossed the icy Charles River, we realized we had a problem: no plan for spring break, which was just weeks away. Michael, at the time my fiancé, had an idea. “Let’s go to Cuba. My brother started a travel business. He can put it together.”
Weeks later, with 18 classmates from Harvard Business School, we stepped into the streets of Havana, where CET’s President Collin Laverty and VP Adam Linderman unfurled for us a trip of a lifetime. Private concerts with Frank Delgado and Obsesión, a journey into Vinales, a reggaeton concert at the Hotel Riviera.
“It still stands out as one of the best trips I’ve ever been on,” says traveler Aniva Hinduja.
Fast forward 4 years, February 2017. Michael and I, now married, again had a problem, this time of a different ilk: the distance between San Francisco and Cuba. Michael was in Havana frequently, having established Havana Strategies in 2014 with Collin, advising Airbnb on its market entry strategy, Cummins on an opportunity with the Cuban government—while I was in the Bay Area, working in B2B sales and marketing for a healthcare technology company.
Carried by the Cuban spirit to resolve and invent, we had an idea: expand on CET’s successful events with companies like Netflix and Spotify and establish HabanaLive, a luxury travel & corporate event brand. HabanaLive (a CET Company) focuses on travel segments that are not yet pervasive in Cuba—sales incentive trips, corporate events, conferences, luxury travel—and that have specialized requirements for success.
Harvard Business School recently profiled my story with CET & HabanaLive, shining light on what it takes to develop this new travel market in Cuba. You can read more about it here, in the article aptly titled Havana Rising.
Now it’s October 2018, more than five years since Michael and I first traveled with our friends from HBS to Cuba for spring break. We see Havana as it rises: last weekend, CET hosted 35 current HBS students over Columbus Day weekend. With years and hundreds of student trips under its belt, CET has invented and upcycled its experiences. The weekend highlights: a 1920s mansion in Vedado, talks with entrepreneurs in Estudio50, a private concert with James Brown incarnate, Cimafunk.
How lucky we are to be a part of this journey.