Luxury Hotels: Forbidden for Cubans


HAVANA, Cuba. – “We are full,” “we are filled to capacity,” “we are expecting a very large delegation,” “only guests are being served,” “no vacancy,” are some of the justifications that Cubans hear these days when they try to register at any of the large hotels in Havana.

For weeks now, complaints abound in social media, but the Ministry of Tourism and the hotel chains, foreign as well as domestic, have said nothing officially about what are, undoubtedly, discriminatory practices, if not directly against Cubans who live in the island, definitely against the national currency with which no business wants to conduct transactions due to its total devaluation.

We are not talking about rumors, it’s not about a circumstantial scandal on social media, it’s, unfortunately, a reality that we could corroborate “in the field” when we set out to investigate the veracity and reach of this “new norm” which is not covered by any of the ghost resolutions that govern day-to-day life –whether Cubans notice or not- and is blatantly unconstitutional.

Denuncia (Captura de pantalla)

This is a violation that takes no one by surprise in Cuba, not only because it’s another one of many unconstitutional practices of the same dictatorship that drafted the actual Constitution, but also because several generations already endured them for decades when Fidel Castro, seeing that tourism was “a necessary evil”, denied Cubans access to hotel facilities, a prohibition that would include the entire commercial circuit meant for foreigners but that did not apply to high-ranking military officers, top-level state officials and their relatives.

According to what we have been able to learn from people who work in such hotels as Nacional, Capri, Manzana Kempinsky, Grand Aston, Paseo del Prado and Grand Packard – the hotels about which people complaint the most on the Internet- these facilities are forced to trade a minimal number of services in Cuban pesos, for domestic clients, but only to keep up appearances that favor the official discourse, a discourse that does not admit publicly that the national currency is like a hot potato.

Staff, directors and officials that CubaNet talked with agree on one explanation: in luxury establishments, it is not profitable to do commercial transactions in Cuban pesos, at an exchange rate that is far from realistic, lower than the rate in the informal market, least of all when supplies are purchased in hard currency, including those purchased in Cuba either from state providers or from private producers.

According to several sources, the agreement with the Cuban government to conduct commercial transactions in Cuban pesos stems from strictly political objectives, and the Cuban side has not complied with its commitment to pay in hard currency the totals generated in Cuban currency, at a fixed exchange rate agreed upon by both parties.

“A debt is accumulating, and as (the Cuban bank) has informed us on several occasions, it is not possible to settle it at this time,” states on condition of anonymity the director (on the foreign side) of one of the hotels most criticized for discrimination against domestic clients.

“It’s not about discriminating Cubans, not at all (…

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