There is a growing literature on the symbolic and cultural meanings of tourism and the ways in which cities are increasingly competing for tourists through the promotion of cultural assets and different forms of spectacle in the `tourist bubble'. To date, research on the role and impact of tourism in cities has largely been confined to those in Western, post-industrial economies. This paper examines the growth of cultural tourism in the central area of Havana, Cuba, and explores the range of unique, devolved, state-owned enterprises that are attempting to use tourism as a funding mechanism to achieve improvements in the social and cultural fabric of the city for the benefit of residents. The paper concludes with an assessment of the implications of this example for our understanding of how the pressures for restructuring and commodification can be moderated at the city level. Copyright 2008 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.