Iberostar Will Inaugurate Five-Star Hotel in Cayo Cruz

MADRID, Spain. – The hotel chain Iberostar Cuba announced the inauguration of the Iberostar Selection Esmeralda hotel for the end of this year in Cayo Cruz, Camagüey.
The hotel, a 5-star facility, is a beachfront hotel and has 450 guest rooms.
“The new facility offers clients an experience in a paradise-like environment, and it is designed for enjoying a vacation with families or friends,” stated Iberostar Cuba Group marketing director, Alexei Torres, during a meeting of Iberostar executives with operators and travel agents that took place in Argentina.
During their visit to the South American country, the delegation took advantage of the opportunity to introduce the island as a tourist destination, as well as to highlight “the beauty and safety of the largest of the Antilles Islands, its cultural attractions, and the joviality of its people,” stated Prensa Laltina.
Iberostar Group also highlighted that Cayo Cruz features over 16 miles of virgin beaches, which is the reason why it sparks interest for tourists, who can “enjoy multiple tourist products and poles, and find sun and beaches, cities, nature, scuba diving, history, legacy, architecture, events and health along the nation’s territory, only minutes away.”
In spite of the constant blackouts throughout the island, shortages, and the housing and transportation crisis, the Cuban government continues to build hotels and to insist that Cuba is ready “to offer quality-service in tourism.”
As part of its strategy to stimulate the tourism sector, the Cuban regime has been presenting Cuba as tourist destination in India, Cambodia, Canada, Uruguay, Italy and Turkey during recent months.
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Blue Diamond Continues Its Expansion in Cuba: Following a Luxurious Remodeling, It Will Assume Management of the Regis Hotel

MADRID, Spain. – The recently remodeled Regis Hotel, located at the corner of Paseo del Prado and Colón Street, will go under management of Blue Diamond Resorts Cuba, starting this coming September.
“Blue Diamond Resorts Cuba is pleased to announce the most recent addition to its Royalton Luxury Resorts, Mystique Regis Habana by Royalton,” informed the Canadian company.
The hotel facility, for adult guests only, has 61 guest rooms (“that include first-class accommodations, like a bathtub, pods coffee maker and minibar”), two restaurants, a roof-top bar, a cafeteria and a bar in the lobby.
According to the release, in the recent redecoration of the boutique hotel, which belongs to the Gaviota Tourism Group, “no detail was spared.”
“This property is truly a hidden jewel from the 1990s that has been restored and rescued. (…) It shows our commitment to this region, where our presence continues to grow,” stated Mohamad Fawzi, director general of Blue Diamond Resorts Cuba.
In January of this year, the hotel chain informed about the reopening of the Starfish Cayo Guillermo Hotel, with renovation of its various areas, restaurants and part of its guest rooms.
The Canadian company was also granted recently all the rights –including the right to import- over tourism exploitation of Cayo Largo del Sur.
The struggle of Blue Diamond to negotiate Cayo Largo together with the Cuban chain Gran Caribe was a long one, but it ended successfully just two months prior to the sudden death of its major detractor and competitor, general Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, who was president of the military commercial conglomerate GAESA.
Last July, it was made known that Blue Diamond Resorts would take over from the French company Accor the management of the Paseo del Prado Hotel, renamed Royalton Habana.
With this new acquisition, the company added it first city hotel to its Royalton Luxury Resorts portfolio.
In the meantime, while the remodeling, construction and negotiation of hotels in Cuba does not stop, in spite of the fact that most of them remain empty due to a decrease in tourism, Cubans continue to complain about housing problems, particularly building collapses and evictions from one end of the island to the other.
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Cuba Announces the Reopening of Luxury Hotel in Camagüey’s Northern Keys

MIAMI, United States. – The Cuban government will provide tourists another luxury hotel. It’s the Valentin Cayo Cruz, a hotel facility that will reopen on November 1st, 2022.
According to the site Excelencias de Cuba, the hotel has 546 guest rooms and is one of three facilities that provides services in that tourist destination north of Camagüey.
Classified as a 5-star hotel by tourism authorities, the Valentin Cayo Cruz is considered that largest hotel of its kind in the area.
The official resort website indicates that the hotel is intended for adults only; is of the “all-inclusive” type; and features “modern spaces such as swimming pools, restaurants, bars, and more.”
“The hotel is part of the tourism development plan being executed in Cayo Cruz; to its contemporary design we can add the recreational, cultural, gastronomical and sports proposals that make use of the virtues of the beach and the island’s identity assets,” is also stated in the hotel’s description.
On the specialized TripAdvisor website, the hotel is rated 4 out of 5, with a total of 171 reviews, 69 of them in the “excellent” rating.
The Valentin Cayo Cruz is operated by Valentin Hotel Group, an chain with establishments in Majorca, Minorca, Cádiz, Madrid, México and Cuba, all located “on beach zones that offer a great diversity of benefits.”
Excelencias de Cuba highlights that in the keys north of Camagüey, “one of the most important investments of Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism is being implemented, with a short- term, medium-term and long-term program that foresees an increase in the number of guest rooms and services to be available in a privileged natural environment.”
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More Hotels in Old Havana… For what purpose?

HAVANA, Cuba. – The appearance of the Historic Quarter of Old Havana is changing. Large buildings, some of them patrimonial, are being remodeled to be converted into more hotels that will join the existing ones already standing on these 1.24 miles of land.
Many people ask: “If existing hotels are not booked to capacity, why waste so many resources right now amidst the deep economic crisis?”
To stroll around centrally-located Paseo del Prado allows you to see the projects in progress. A very important one is Pasaje Payret, which occupies approximately 984 square feet. It is located on Paseo del Prado, and it is flanked by Teniente Rey, Zulueta and San José streets. The only structure that will not be demolished there is the famous Payret theater.
Behind this area, on Zulueta Street, lived author Guillermo Cabrera Infante when he first arrived in Havana with his family.
Another building that is being remodeled is La Metropolitana, which used to house corporate offices and law firms. The fourteen-floor building occupies half a square block and is flanked by O’Reilly, Aguacate and Empedrado streets.
La Corona cigar factory will also become a hotel. The site, which is next to the former Presidential Palace, spans 984 square feet. Only its façade is being utilized, and it will be called the Corona Hotel.
The largest of these remodeling projects involved the unused docks of the Customs building, with all of its support posts that allowed large ships to dock there. Except for a small section that welcomes the arrival of cruise ships -that haven’t been arriving for a long time- the final construction will be a kind of hotel with its own marina.
At the corner of Obispo and Cuba streets we find the majestic building that once served as headquarters for the Ministry of Finances and Prices. The Real Hacienda Hotel will be built there.
The area is already full of hotels. At Prado and Malecón boulevards lies the Paseo del Prado Hotel, which is now being run under the name of Royalton by the Canadian hotel chain Blue Diamond. Three hundred twenty-eight feet down is the huge Packard Hotel. On one side of the Fausto Theater, the Regis Hotel is being remodeled, and on the next corner, the well-known and very-large Sevilla Hotel.
Surrounding Central Park lies the Central Park Hotel; the Manzana de Gómez, today the Manzana Kempinki Hotel; behind it the Plaza Hotel; and across the street the Inglaterra Hotel, the Telégrafo Hotel and the nearby Gran Hotel. Missing is, of course, the Saratoga Hotel, which was recently destroyed by an explosion.
Simple arithmetic tells us that in an area roughly 13 square blocks in size, or 4,265 feet, there are 11 grand hotels.
There are some hotels, like the Armadores de Santander, across from the Luz dock, the Ambols Mundos, on Obispo Street, where Ernest Hemingway lived for a while, the Florida Hotel, also on Obispo Street, and a few other small hotels.
The list would be endless if we list all the self-employed home and room renters, because everywhere you walk you find “For Rent” signs posted.
The Cuban government admits that at mid-year Cuba, had yet to reach one million tourists, and it expects to welcome 2 million by the end of 2022, a number that is not enough to reach full capacity in those hotels.
We need to point out that, following the late Fidel Castro’s own policy, foreign visitors used to be routed to the “tourism poles” in order to keep them away from the population and Cubans from being influenced –contaminated- by capitalist ideas. As a result, the bulk of hotels today are located at the beaches and keys around the island.
Almost every construction being done in Old Havana is being executed by military construction units that belong to the military conglomerate GAESA.
ARTÍCULO DE OPINIÓNLas opiniones expresadas en este artículo son de exclusiva responsabilidad de quien las emite y no necesariamente representan la opinión de CubaNet.
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Regime Invests 22 Million Cuban Pesos to Remodel Hotels in Cienfuegos

MADRID, Spain. – The Cuban regime has invested approximately 22 million Cuban pesos in the first phase of remodeling some ten tourist facilities in Cienfuegos province.
This phase included the Rancho Luna-Faro Luna hotel complex, and the construction of an ocean corridor about 100 meters long that connects both facilities, according to Perlavisión channel.
During Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz’s visit last Tuesday to Cienfuegos, which hosted the 26th of July celebrations, the official indicated that for several years now, legacy spaces and facilities have been recovered in order to convert them to “Hoteles Encantos” (Enchantment Hotels) and to improve hotel options.
Marrero Cruz added, also, that “in the beach area, those hotels that have deteriorated with the passage of time have been remodeled, thus raising their standards and transforming them completely.”
Also, he added that, for next year, guest rooms in the Rancho Luna that have yet to be remodeled, will be completed in full.
Authorities stated that work is also being done at the Casa Verde Hostel, to increase its offer.
In the meantime, Cubans continue to suffer a housing crisis, with houses that are much older than the targeted hotels in danger of collapse, and whose remodeling receives no such financial assignment from the government.
A report published in Tribuna de La Habana last April, indicated that “the practical paralysis of the Cuban economy in 2021” due to the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the delays in housing plans.
According to official statistics, 18,645 housing units were completed in 2021 in Cuba, only 58% of the original number planned for the year. That number includes state plans, subsidies, and “citizen action that allowed 7,481 to be completed out of the 16,579 that had been projected.”
Authorities indicate that the main limitations the plan faced were deficits in cement, steel, aggregates, imported raw materials for metal carpentry and bathroom fixtures, among others.
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Hotels that Are Closed or in Ruins Make Lodging in Holguín an Ordeal

HOLGUÍN, Cuba. – “Don’t knock on the door, the hotel is closed,” states a lady. “We are passing through, and we want to sleep in Holguín tonight to continue on our journey tomorrow,” states a couple who is looking for lodging. “That will be very difficult. Here in the city, most hotels are closed,” the lady answers.
The lodging deficit has been a serious and long-time problem in the city of Holguín, with no short-term or long-term solution in sight.
The problem affects travelers and occasional visitors who find it difficult to find overnight lodging in a city with a high volume of transient population.
Sleeping on the benches at bus terminals has been the most available option.
Libertad, Praga and Los Ángeles are the three emblematic hotels in the center of Holguín, and they are abandoned. It’s been more than ten years since they shut down without any hope of recovery.
“There is no budget for their repair,” is the government’s answer to justify this neglect.
Hotel Praga. Foto Fernando Donate
The hotels that are still operating, like the Saratoga, charge exorbitant prices that most people cannot afford.
The closure of hotels in the city of Holguín is one more thing to add to the abandonment of other emblematic establishments in downtown Holguín, like the Hanoi store, and the underground crosswalk named Pirijod de Manuel.
The hotels in the center of town were built and managed by private capital. Following their nationalization, or expropriation (as the experts call it) in 1959 by the Castro revolution, state management failed at keeping up the facilities, causing their demise.
Authorities have ignored the advantages of having hotels in Holguín: quick recovery of investment, creation of new jobs and satisfying the needs of the population.
However, they spend millions of dollars in the construction of new hotels at the beach destined for international tourism, where the majority of employees work near the facilities.
Private house rentals have not been the solution for Cubans: high prices are beyond what pensions and salaries can afford the average citizen.
Last Monday, Francisco is in Havana around 9 pm. On the waiting list at the bus terminal, he could only but a ticket to Holguín, the closest place to his final destination which is Santiago de Cuba.
Foto Fernando Donate
“When I arrived here, there was no transportation to Santiago. I telephoned several hotels in the city. Most of them did not answer, others had no vacancy, and the Saratoga was charging very high prices. I slept on a terminal bench,” states this gentleman, looking very tired.
The Praga Hotel, located at Narciso López Street, between Aguilera and Flexes, has been abandoned for more than six years.
Damages in the building’s foundation are causing it to sink: it was the official reason given when it was closed. A former employee who called himself René, denies that.
“They said there were problems with the foundation. But that is not true. This is a construction that can stand two more stories on top of the one it has. The foundation is two square meters, with very strong columns and beams.”
René worked the last ten years the hotel was operational. He states that its closure was due to hydraulic problems. “There is a water leak. The tanker trucks would fill the hotel’s water deposit. Then it would be pumped to the tanks on the roof, which emptied easily. There was no budget for a new hydraulic system,” states René.
Hotel Praga. Foto Fernando Donate
Several holes can be seen from the street where there were once windows. “In the six years the hotel has been closed, everything has been removed slowly. The hotel has 28 guest rooms, one restaurant and a night club. They emptied it from top to bottom. They would park trucks in front of the hotel and would load them with mattresses, beds, air conditioners, doors and window frames. They emptied the place in plain daylight, through the front door and for all to see. No one has ever known where the stuff went. The place was stripped down, no doors or windows were left,” states the former employee.
On the right side of the hotel’s main entrance there is a large metal door that leads to what once was the warehouse of establishment number 627 of the Wholesale Food Products Company (EMPA, by its Spanish acronym).
The huge warehouse, which was the Hatuey beer distributing company in Holguín between 1948 and 1959, has long been forgotten. On the door, someone wrote with chalk “Psalm 57:1,” a reference to the Old Testament that states: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”
Foto Fernando Donate
The biblical reference has been interpreted by some as a demand to authorities to rescue the establishment.
The level of neglect has been such that since the hotel shut down, the hotel’s electric sign has not been removed, not even during hurricanes.
The square sign with the illustration of a bed on it is still nailed to a post in front of the building. This has caused confusion among visitors who knock on the hotel’s door. When nobody answers them, they ask the neighbors, who then inform them that the hotel is closed.
The building and the beer distributing company belonged to José A. Patallo Cerviño, whose first last name –Patallo- was the name of the hotel. In 1959, the hotel was confiscated and renamed “Praga”. That moment is described as the beginning of the end.
Another hotel that is victim of the same government neglect is the Libertad, a centric hotel located on the area of the. Boulevard that lies between Martí and Luz y Caballero streets.
The deterioration of the building for lack of maintenance and repairs prevented it from continuing to provide lodging and gastronomical services.
A wire is tied to a chain that closes the front door, and is the unmistakable indication that the hotel is closed and abandoned.
Foto Fernando Donate
The hotel suffered problems with the carpentry, the electrical system, as well as the hydro-sanitary installations. “We began by closing down some of the guest rooms, but the time came when all guest rooms had problems and we had to close down the hotel,” states Laura, a former hotel employee, to CubaNet.
The Libertad was included in the maintenance and repairs plan for 2014, but in the end, nothing was done. “We were told in a meeting that year that the budget was already approved. However, the months passed and nothing came of it,” adds Laura.
The hotel was closed and most of its employees were re-assigned to less-paying positions. “People were very upset. Almost all of them asked to be laid off, looking for better salaries. I started doing business on the street, and I am still doing it because I have not found employment in any hotel,” she states.
A few blocks down, the same thing is happening with the Los Ángeles Hotel, located on Frexes Street, between Maceo and Mártires.
Filth and deterioration were the reason for its closing in 2012. After performing some superficial repairs, they reopened it in mid 2013. But a few months later, it closed for good due to its increasing deterioration.
Back then, Carmen Wisimian was the general secretary of the workers’ union in the   hotel. “I remember that she informed the government in letters she addressed to officials, to the Central Labor Union (CTC, by its Spanish acronym), to the sector director, and to the Municipal Gastronomical Company, to no avail,” states a former employee on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, to CubaNet.
Hotel Praga. Foto Fernando Donate
In downtown Holguín, only the Turquino Hotel and the Saratoga Hotel are operational. The first one has no available vacancies. The second one, which charges 4,530 Cuban pesos per night and includes only breakfast, is unaffordable for the majority of Cubans whose maximum basic salary is less than 10,000 Cuban pesos per month.
The Majestic Hotel is reserved for nurses who are training to fulfill medical missions outside Cuba. The Santiago Hotel, the Caballeriza Hotel and the Esmeralda Hotel are closed for repairs.
“I graduated from the Hotel and Tourism School in Holguín, but I have been working in unrelated jobs for a long time because there are no jobs in the field I studied; it’s the same with many of my colleagues,” states a young man who identified himself as Luis.
He blames his poor luck on state mismanagement. “The government is responsible for the closing of hotels in this town. It gave them no maintenance and allowed them to deteriorate, and now we and the people who live here have to pay for their ineptitude. If the hotels were managed by private owners, this would not have happened,” states Luis.
ARTÍCULO DE OPINIÓNLas opiniones expresadas en este artículo son de exclusiva responsabilidad de quien las emite y no necesariamente representan la opinión de CubaNet.
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Cuban Authorities Justify Themselves: “Hotel Construction Is an International Practice”

MADRID, Spain. – In the face of a relentless construction of hotel facilities, which contrasts with the housing deficit the population endures and questioned by the Cuban people, Cuban authorities argue that “hotel construction is an international practice.”
That is what tourism professor and expert, José Luis Perelló, stated at the XV Seminar on International Journalism and Tourism held at the headquarters of the José Martí International Journalism Institute in Havana, which started on June 20th and ends June 24th.
According to the professor, few hotels are built in Cuba when compared to the rest of the world.
This year alone, 120,000 new hotels are being built around the world, according to Perelló.
The tourism expert also stated that “hotels belong to the real estate segment, and not to tourism per se, and he reminded everyone about the sector’s 2007 crisis with global consequences and the risks that entails.”
At present, Cuba has 77,809 hotel guest rooms, of which 44.5% are in the five-star category, 29.6% in the four-star category, 13.6% and 12% in another category, stated José Luis Perelló, without making reference to the housing deficit that affects Cuban families, nor the constant building collapses or those in danger of collapsing.
In spite of this situation, the construction of hotels did not stop in Cuba even during the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic.
According to his statements, 48% of hotel facilities in Cuba belong to Grupo Gaviota; 22% belong to Cubanacán; 18% belong to Gran Caribe; and 12% belong to Islazul.
Of those numbers, 50,000 hotel rooms are managed by important foreign hotel companies, mainly Meliá, Iberostar, BlueDiamond, Roc, Barceló, Blau, Kempinski, Accor, NH, Axel, Be Live, and Sirenis.
During Tuesday’s session of the XV International Seminar on Journalism and Tourism reviewed by the official outlet Cubadebate, it was also highlighted that Cuba must consolidate sun-and-beaches tourism; and marketing and post-pandemic tourism strategies for Cuba were debated.
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Will Cuba’s College of Design (Instituto Superior de Diseño, ISDi by Its Spanish Acronym) Become Another Hotel in Havana?

HAVANA, Cuba. – The site of Cuba’s College of Design – Instituto Superior de Diseño (ISDi, by its Spanish acronym)- has been shut down due to structural and architectural damages that could cause an imminent collapse, thus endangering its occupants. Therefore, according to information made available by some news media, the building has been evacuated urgently, and operations have been transferred temporarily to other buildings of the University of Havana.
Images published to date, as well as testimony from faculty and students of the school made public after the news of its closing, confirm the perilous degree of the building’s deterioration.
El ISDi se encuentra en peligro de derrumbe (Imagen tomada del grupo de Facebook “ISDi”)
However, comments and opinions expressed in conversation on social networks show the growing preoccupation with the possibility that, once the structural and architectural problems are resolved and the building is restored, it might not return to its traditional purpose, but instead be converted into another hotel facility. That has happened lately with other buildings on the verge of collapse that have been evacuated under the guise of “restoration”.
Although the plot of land that ISDi occupies, between Belascoaín Street and Carlos III Avenue, is not exactly a tourism development zone now, and neither are adjacent lots being promoted in the [Investment] Opportunities Portfolio to date, we are talking about a colonial construction of historical value and considerable dimensions located midway between tourism-interest zones like El Vedado and Old Havana. It’s also located in the vicinity of a road that provides quick and direct connection between the center of Havana and the José Martí International Airport.
El ISDi visto desde la Avenida Carlos III (Foto tomada del grupo de Facebook “ISDi”)
The fear that the ISDi ends up as a hotel is not unfounded; there are many examples in plain sight. It happened with the residential and cultural and sports facilities around the Payret movie house, in Old Havana, that now are part of the long list of “properties of interest” that the GAESA military-and-commercial emporium of Cuba’s Armed Forces, has adjudicated to itself. It also happened with Manzana de Gómez, which went from being a school to being a luxury hotel.
It has also happened with former tenement housing whose tenants have been displaced to make room for hotels like Iberostar’s Paseo del Prado and Gran Packard, in addition to a dozen more that are still under construction or earmarked for construction in Havana alone, like the 23rd and “K” Tower, or the building to be constructed on the lot formerly occupied by the Moscú Restaurant. This investment, as can be verified in the various Opportunities Portfolios published between 2012 and today by Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce and by the Ministry of Tourism, are not even being promoted.
However, in the releases about the closing of ISDi, in addition to communicating uncertainty, nothing is said about possible functional changes. However, neither is it stated that the Ministry of Higher Education (MES, by its Spanish acronym) will pick up any time soon a building restoration project that is considered to be very complex and that would totally require not only moving considerable resources -which MES does not have- but also the assistance of architectural conservation specialists to handle a building of this type which has been in use for more than a century and a half.
To that end, according to information that CubaNet has obtained from various sources close to the matter, it is possible that restoration work be undertaken by other entities not related at all to MES. There is talk that the property could be transferred to the Ministry of Tourism or to Gaviota S.A. in exchange for their agreeing to provide a new building for ISDi.
La calle Reina conecta con la Ave. Carlos III, uno de los ejes considerados para el desarrollo turístico de la Isla (Foto: CubaNet)
Likewise, another option is being considered: that the Ministry of Higher Education keep the building’s property albeit assuming new functions as a hotel that focuses on academic events, and is managed in conjunction with the entity that invests in its restoration.
“Were they to decide to transform it into a hotel, that wouldn’t be bad,” states a source at the Ministry of Tourism under condition of anonymity. “Making the building functional again is a very complex process due to the level of deterioration and also due to the implicit obligation to fund the building’s later maintenance. This is something that is not within the possibilities of the MES. It would be an intelligent decision to reach agreements of this nature, either with us at MINTUR, or with an investor who is able to carry out a restoration of this magnitude (…); or make transfer agreements with construction companies such as Puerto Carena, Almest; or shared management with Gaviota, just to give you a few examples of companies that could be interested.”
“In fact –continues our source- since the 1990s, there have been proposals for that area to become the axis that connects El Vedado and Old Havana, featuring several buildings of great value but that are equally deteriorated and whose restoration becomes very difficult (…). ISDi is located in a high-interest zone in Centro Habana that has remained virgin territory (with respect to tourism development) due to lack of foreign financing. However, the entire axis from Parque de la Fraternidad through Reina and Carlos III streets and through Revolution Square all the way to the airport, could soon become most important under more favorable conditions (…), because it is located in one of those avenues that will be among the most attractive if it is restored, an artery that connects the airport directly to the Capitol Building, the hotels in the vicinity and the historic center of the city,” stated the official.
Sede del ISDi (Foto tomada de onlinetours.es)
A return to its origins?
Architect Marta García Bonet, who worked as a specialist in several companies of the Ministry of Construction between 1992 and 2006, and in the construction company Puerto Carena until 2016, assured CubaNet that in the restoration plans for the present ISDi building, between 2005 and 2007, there was an idea about conserving the building but as an events hotel, associated particularly to the Cigar Festival (Festival del Habano) and to one of the most important cigar factories in the island, located on 852 Belascoaín Street, that specialized in the manufacture of the Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann cigar brands.
However, the idea did not come to fruition not only because of difficulties that arose during restoration, which required more resources than originally calculated, but also because it was part of an older and more comprehensive project that called for the restoration of more than 100 buildings, some of them residential, around Carlos III and Reina streets.
“There has always been interest in recovering those streets as tourist and commercial axis – states the architect- not only because of the ISDi building, but also because of other buildings that were equally or more important, like the Great Masonic Lodge, the cigar factory on Belascoaín Street, the Reina Church, the headquarters of the Book Institute, the Culture Center (Casa de la Cultura) in Centro Habana, and several hundred other buildings, some more modern than others, that are true treasures of Cuban architecture. These include the Quinta de los Molinos as a recreation space, and the buildings of the Schools of Dentistry and Veterinary Sciences.
Interior del ISDi (Foto tomada del grupo de Facebook “ISDi”)
“ISDi’s building was part of the plans for an area where there isn’t a single hotel. (…) Some of the more deteriorated buildings facing ISDi were taken off the list, as were those around Reina Church, in order to provide open spaces, tree-lined areas from where the church could be better appreciated. That is an area that could very well become one of the most attractive zones, architecturally speaking. On the other side of the park on Belascoaín Street, the Aguado y Rico Polytechnic Institute is located on a majestic building which was once Havana’s Faculty of Arts and Crafts, which dates back to the late 19th Century (…). The ISDi building is a few years older, it dates from 1860, and was originally built as a hotel (…). It was named the Military Hotel of Havana (…); keeping in mind its origins, it was thought it could be restored as a hotel, but it didn’t come to fruition,” stated García Bonet.
CubaNet consulted a director at Gaviota S.A. who spoke to us on condition of anonymity. Gaviota belongs to the military-commercial conglomerate that controls the tourism and investments markets in Cuba. We asked the Gaviota director if there was any possibility that the building that ISDi occupies at present, and which had been the headquarters of the Cadets School and the Headquarters of the General Staff for troops during the [U.S.] occupation in 1902, could return to its origins, perhaps as part of that greater project that was abandoned years back.
“Till now, nothing has been said specifically about what the outcome of the building will be, but I don’t think that the Ministry of Higher Education can finance its restoration. One should not waste the opportunity, however, of recovering it for the tourism sector (…). With the pandemic, many plans that were not considered a priority were halted, among them the plan to restore one of the three main axes that run through the heart of Centro Habana and that are of interest (…). They were never part of the Opportunities Portfolio because they were regarded as plans to change the facades in an area that visitors must cross in order to get from one end of town to the other. This is a very attractive zone where tourists cannot find any other type of lodging except for rooming houses.”
Centro Habana es quizás el municipio con mayor número de edificios deteriorados en La Habana (Foto: CubaNet)
“Centro Habana is one of the municipalities where there is greater deterioration. At the same time, a thorough restoration would imply the temporary or permanent displacement of hundreds of people, which is impossible to do under present conditions (…). Of the three axes, the only one that is active is Malecón Boulevard, thanks to the Saudi Fund. The other two –the one that runs along San Lázaro Street from Prado to El Vedado, and the one that starts on Reina Street and ends at Revolution Square- have been frozen for the time being, although we never waste an opportunity like this one to recover buildings that are of interest and that are still part of that greater plan. The policy is not to share management with Cuban entities, that is not viable. Gaviota only shares management with some of the larger foreign investors (…). When they are not found, the policy is to add [those buildings] to our patrimony, even if at the moment of their acquisition we are unable to start their restoration (…). With the thawing under Obama, we thought we would be able to restore the three axes, but with Trump and later the pandemic, everything came to a halt (…). We thought of the ISDi building because of its potential to be turned into a hotel, after all, that was its original function (…). It’s been proven that the Ministry of Higher Education is not able to upkeep it. We know that investing resources in a project that in five or ten years will be in danger of collapsing once again, is absurd. Therefore, I don’t think it likely that it will end up as a hotel, but I do see it becoming part of our patrimonial fund, or part of the Office of the [Havana] Historian. Those are the only ways that the building will remain standing,” stated the source.
Contraste entre el Hotel Manzana y las viviendas deterioradas del entorno (Foto: CubaNet)
In spite of the fact that, for the moment, it cannot be said that the ISDi building will end up like Manzana de Gómez, or the Payret movie house, or the “Kid Chocolate” Multipurpose Sports Hall, or the recently inaugurated Gran Hotel Bristol near the Capitol Building, and also keeping in mind the “frozen plans” of turning the most visible ruins of the Centro Habana municipality into an attractive corridor for tourists, one should not ignore the possibility that, any moment now, what were once university classrooms will be turned into guest rooms and suites for a tourism sector that is showing no signs of recovery.
In spite of the present economic crisis, and the negative indicators from the tourism sector this year to date, the plans to build more hotels in a city that is collapsing because of the institutional state of neglect in which it keeps its buildings, are still standing. Even Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, reaffirmed those plans a few days ago amidst a wave of disgruntled criticism for policies that, clearly, prioritize the wellbeing of foreigners in detriment of the quality of life of the Cuban people.
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Cuba: New Hotels Are Phantom Hotels

HAVANA, Cuba. – On March 15th, the Gran Aston Hotel was inaugurated as planned. Gran Aston belongs to Gaviota S.A. –which in turn belongs to the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group GAESA- and is managed by the Indonesian group Archipiélago. Official news outlets have confirmed the news, but they have not stopped praising the magnificence, luxury and innovations of the new facility, located smack in the middle of Havana’s Malecón Boulevard. However, they have not mentioned that the hotel will remain practically empty for a few months, and that it’s not until late April of this year that they have some 40 guest reservations, mostly from Canada and the United Kingdom, according to information that CubaNet received from officials at the Ministry of Tourism on condition of anonymity.
According to the same sources, of the dozen guests staying in eight guest rooms in one of the hotel’s towers –between the two towers, they feature 600 guest rooms- only four are paying for their stay (notwithstanding the promotional discount of 40% of the actual price). The rest are either celebrities or representatives and officers of Archipiélago and GAESA who are staying at the hotel as “invited guests”, with access free-of-charges to all services available.
It’s a similar situation at the Gran Hotel Bristol La Habana, also owned by Gaviota S.A. but managed by the European chain Kempinski.
When this facility, which is located in the middle of Old Havana, officially opens its doors this week, its 167 guest rooms, spread over nine floors, will show only five or six of them occupied mostly by “special guests” invited to the opening ceremony on March 21st, all of them gifted with an entire week’s stay at the hotel free-of-charge.
“Of the twenty-plus confirmations we had this past January, mostly travelers from Russia, now we have only two (…). A guest from the United Kingdom and another one from India, the rest have cancelled,” according to a Gaviota S.A. officer interviewed by CubaNet. Our source also revealed other details regarding occupancy expectancy for the rest of 2022 in these two new hotels as well as other facilities Gaviota S.A. owns, which amounts to 56% of the hotel pool in the island and 90% of the best luxury facilities.
“We are redirecting and intensifying our plans toward the Canadian market mostly, more than to the British market, although we have made notable progress with the Brits (…). It’s a change in the initial strategy because for the time being we cannot rely on the Russian market (…). We only have serious reservations for the months of July through September, but the most important ones are for December and early 2023 (…). Still, nothing is certain, the strategy we developed for 25% to 40% discounted prices and no-fee cancellations in every facility is not paying off to the level we expected of the urban hotels. The Keys, more than Varadero itself, are absorbing the bulk of tourists, which means that these hotels –the Aston as well as the Bristol- will take a long time to yield what we anticipated four or five years ago when they were conceived of a scenario not as critical as today’s,” stated the officer.
Una vista de las obras en la parcela del Payret, pronta a convertirse en hotel (Foto: CubaNet)
The Telégrafo-Axel Hotel in the same predicament
Same goes for another Gaviota S.A. property, the one that would be the first LGBTQ+ hotel in the capital and the tenth facility of the Spanish hotel chain Axel, which comes immediately following the inauguration of Axel Beach in Miami in 2020.
Of the 63 guest rooms it features, only 10 have been rented to date, although five of them have been promoted under an unprecedented special discount offer (of up to 50% off for reservations greater than five nights), since the formerly Telégrafo Hotel opened its door on March 1st. The Telégrafo –now Axel- rises in the midst of a very popular (mostly) male prostitution zone which, in the 1970s and 1990s, was the site of daily episodes of police repression against homosexuals.
“Only one floor of the three in the facility are actively being rented, although most rooms have yet to be rented. I think we will end up with a pretty bordello for the Cuban market,” states the same hotel employee, who adds that, since inauguration, several Cubans have approached him to inquire about the cost of one night: “(…) male jineteros from the neighborhood who have heard about our gay-friendly policy and associate the hotel with the male prostitution that abounds especially at night around Parque Central. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea (…), after all we have not welcomed the first gay couple yet. We are in the same situation as before, when tourists came down, picked up the first pinguero –male sex worker- they found and brought him up to the room (…). This is prohibited, but, since things are so bad, we have to let them do as they please because, in the ultimate analysis, they are the only clients we have,” he concluded.
According to information provided by one an officer of Gaviota S.A., it was expected that around this time some fifty guests would arrive at the Telégrafo, mainly from Europe and Mexico. However, most of the reservations confirmed until today are scheduled for the months of December to February 2022, and they are from Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada and the United States, where a fair portion of clients belong to the Cuban-American community in the U.S.
“We are placing our hopes on the arrival of Cubans who reside in the U.S. That is the principal market for Axel, more important than the European market (…). With the promotion of discounts, we already booked several reservations for mid-May, a substantial number of reservations for the months of July and August, and the most reservations for the end of this year and the first two months of 2023,” the Gaviota S.A. official explained.
“We’ve had to apply discounts of up to 50%; we’ve had to design packages from the Axel to Varadero at 25% of actual cost; free day-outings to Varadero, passes for discos and theaters, free meals, you name it, looking to generate international publicity instead of income (…). Income for March has hit rock bottom, and we’ll stay that way throughout 2022 and possibly into 2023, at least until October (…). It’s not just the case of Telégrafo, it’s the general tourism situation in Cuba,” were the Gaviota S.A. official’s closing remarks.
Discounts and special deals for Cubans: “we have no choice”
Other important hotel chains, like Meliá and Iberostar –two of the hotel chains that jointly with GAESA manage the most guestrooms in the island- also have been forced to use great discount deals to attract tourists to their near-empty hotels. They have also designed “packages” for domestic tourists, although foreign administrations do not like those arrangements for they have made them sell their product using the national currency, which is totally worthless.
A pesar de la falta de turistas, inversiones priorizadas como las del Payret no se detienen (Foto: CubaNet)
While promotions aimed at international markets include discounts of between 25% and 40% -in Meliá’s case- the “deals” offered to domestic clients imply costs of between 30,000 and 60,000 Cuban pesos per person per night at Iberostar’s Gran Packard Hotel. However, even with such exaggerated rates, the results are neither a greater number of guests nor higher profits, which are nowhere near what was projected in 2019 for the present period. Back in 2019, nobody imagined that tourism would plummet more than 60% and, as a result, plans were made for the arrival of close to 5 million tourists.
“Today, the Packard (Hotel) is literally empty, last month we had a week when we didn’t have a single guest. Something similar is happening in March,” stated a Packard manager who was interviewed about the situation. “We rarely have guests staying for more than three nights. The average is 1.6 nights per guest. However, if you count the additional services they consume and you consider the length of their stay -where the majority of guests are Cuban nationals who come for a couple of hours for beverages at the terrace- then the average stay would be at 0.2 or 0.3, which tells you that this is a phantom hotel (…). Promotion of services in Cuban currency is a way of appeasing the Cuban government: it uses this data to say that they service a clientele in Cuban pesos. In practice, this neither solves the problem of having no guests, nor does it allow for making payments of any kind (…). Salaries continue to be paid by the employer; these are products and services that do not translate into profit (…). If I were to tell you what I really think, I would say that domestic clients do not represent the least benefit, unless he/she pays in convertible currency. If they pay with Cuban pesos, it’s a loss in every respect, but we have no choice,” according to a staff worker.
Delay, postpone, but never reject any new projects
According to the most recent statements of Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, Cuba continues to hope for an increase in the arrival of international tourists to the island to 2.5 million visitors, although the numbers for 2021 (when Cuba welcomed only 573,944 tourists) and for the first two months of 2022 (with less than 60,000 foreign visitors) do not forecast the tourism take-off they dream about, nor gives too many guarantees regarding occupancy for GAESA’s ambitious hotel investments plan. This plan aims to exceed by 5.7% the number of new guest rooms available in comparison to 2018 and 2019. Between both years, close to 9 million tourists arrived in Cuba, a bountiful moment during which the record number of 6 million tourists for 2030 was first planned.
With regard to what will happen with the new hotels to be inaugurated during the next months and years –taking into consideration the plans made during the bonanza years- several officers at the Ministry of Tourism whom CubaNet consulted assured us that there are no plans to stop the investment plan. They stated that the offers included in the Opportunities Portfolio for tourism in Cuba are still standing, with the same number of hotel and non-hotel projects –marinas, golf courses, theme parks and real estate development- although the execution of the projects is slowing down due, in part, to difficulties in importing resources and in obtaining external financing. The slowing down is also related to the possibility that many of these hotel facilities will become unnecessary.
“The policy would be to delay, to rethink the plan, but never to give up on the new projects. Maybe we’ll have to delay the completion schedules, but never stopping anything,” states an official at the Ministry of Tourism.
“Up until now, none of the projects has been halted, and with greater or lesser speed, we keep on building the 18 luxury-hotel facilities in Havana and in the other provinces (…). Those are the 18 hotels that must be ready to deliver no later than 2024. The rest of the projects could be slowed down depending on how tourism performs this year and in 2023,” according to our source.
This notwithstanding, workers at facilities-in-progress that are very important to the tourism sector, like the one on 23rd Street and “K” and the ones being erected in Havana’s Historic District, have informed CubaNet about significant delays in construction plans, which has negatively impacted on their ability to receive their salaries. In that respect, rumors among scared workers convey a preoccupation about construction being halted indefinitely, which in turn would mean the loss of thousands of jobs.
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GAESA Fights for the Land Where the Former Moscú Restaurant Was Located

Starting this February, a concise note from the Cuban News Agency (ACN, by its Spanish acronym) which was shared by other official news media, announced the construction of a new hotel in a notorious lot in El Vedado, located on “P” Street between 23rd and Humboldt, on La Rampa Boulevard. However, in a statement made by the project’s investor who was interviewed for the occasion, there is only reference to the demolition of old and deteriorated structures and absolutely nothing is said about who is carrying on this work, or about what the hotel will look like, or what companies are the owners.
But for the use of a fence to close off the street where one reads “Hotel under Construction”, there are no details in the news that can truly confirm that a hotel is being built, especially when none of the Opportunities Portfolios for foreign investment that have been published by Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce to date make reference to any construction on that lot, one of the highest assessed in the area due to its location. So, it begs the question: is it true that a hotel is being built on the ruins of the former Moscú Restaurant? And if that’s the case, who is making the general investment.
(Foto: CubaNet)
Following the press note, the official press hasn’t mentioned another word, in spite of the fact that nothing is being made clear about the construction work which has sparked curiosity among passer byes and also among the construction brigades working there. In fact, even though the site is located across the street from a television station (Educational Channel), there has been no reporting where details could be shared about what will become of the once glittery and famous Montmartre Nightclub and later, during the Sovietization in the 1960s by the Castros, the Moscú Restaurant. The restaurant vanished in a mysterious fire in mid 1989 (which coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union).
Desde el incendio en 1989 el local quedó abandonado (Foto: Archivo de CubaNet)
Not even the construction workers who are doing the demolition are informed about what will be erected there once they finish prepping the lot. According to what CubaNet has ascertained in situ, even the top personnel responsible for the supervising the work speculates about what will happen there. The fence used to close off P street was placed there “because the supervisors could not find another one,” according to one of the brigade chiefs with whom we were able to talk.
“We used that [the fence] because there was nothing else. Someone brought it and we placed it, but no one here knows what will be built here. We came only to demolish (…). There are several brigades here, we belong to a private cooperative (…); some were hired by Palmares S.A., others directly by the Ministry of Tourism, and there are two more brigades that belong to the State: one belongs to the Ministry of Construction and the other one I believe belongs to the People’s Assembly. This has nothing to do with Gaviota S.A. or with military construction,” stated a demolition worker on condition of anonymity.
Gaviota is enraged when it finds out through the press
“Nobody knows,” I think it will be a hotel,” They say it will be a commercial mall,” “It’s a tourism warehouse,” “They will rebuild the Montmartre.” These are not the opinions of passer byes but instead the answers CubaNet received from people who are directly involved with the work.
The orders they received were to demolish and prep the lot, and that is just what they are doing. They know nothing more. Workers’ salaries come from a variety of sources, including the municipal government, and the contracts signed will expire in a few months when, before 2022 ends, they have to deliver the ground totally cleared, without trace of what was there before, with the exception of a few fragments of the façade which, from the condition they are in, might as well be torn down. “We will do all that’s necessary to salvage them,” stated a construction worker.
Detalle de la fachada del otrora restaurante Moscú (Foto: Archivo de CubaNet)
Due to the scarce information obtained at the site, CubaNet dug up inside information at the Plaza Municipal Government, at the Ministry of Tourism, as well as at Gaviota S.A. Most answers reveal the confusion that a rushed project stemming from improvisation has generated. It has sparked angry claims from [the Armed Forces military business consortium] GAESA to the Ministry of Tourism as to why it was not informed of the final decision about a lot that is of special interest to GAESA. GAESA interests are a priority established as “unwritten rule” and subject to compulsory compliance when it comes to tourism investment in the island.
“You won’t believe me when I tell you that GAE (GAESA) found out through the press. The news has been a bombshell,” according to a Gaviota S.A. worker that CubaNet interviewed, as well as other workers and officials, all on condition of anonymity.
“No one at GAESA knew that this earth-moving work had started, no one sent notice about the assignation of the lot, even when it’s in a super special area where GAE (GAESA) has priority. (…) The norm is to notify GAE, and if we are not interested then it is the prerogative of the Tourism Industry, and as a last recourse, of the municipal government to make a decision, because this is a high priority lot for investments, always in prior consultation with GAE,’ stated an official, who went on about the sense of alarm and discontent inside the military consortium that, at present, is making rights claims over the lot.
El edificio que GAESA reclama (Foto: Tomada de Cubacute)
“Before the note was made public, Gaviota was already filing claims at MINTUR because a few days before, there were photos (on social media).  I, who walk by the place every day, asked myself the question because we have no projects there. This is being talked about still because it’s a lot of priority interest for Gaviota. Not for right now, but for future projects; in addition, that was a lot that Eusebio [Leal] had special interest in; he always said that the only thing that could be built there was another nightclub. His idea was to reconstruct the Montmartre, so no one was thinking of erecting a hotel there. If they wanted a hotel, they had to recreate the Montmartre first. That, or nothing,” stated the official.
Hotel, nightclub, commercial mall or an all-in-one
However, according to the opinions we gathered, there will be no single hotel or nightclub erected in that lot, but a great commercial mall on the ground floor instead, with areas for restaurants and nightclubs in the basements and on the upper floors, as well as warehouses. This according to information given to CubaNet by officials at the Tourism Ministry and at the Plaza Municipal Government.
“There is still no approved project nor an official assignment of the lot because it did not belong to Palmares,” states a female official at MINTUR. “As far as I know, no one had to notify GAESA because the lot had long belonged to Abatur (Empresa de Abastecimiento al Turismo, the tourism supplies distributor), and also because it posed a danger due to its ruinous condition in the middle of La Rampa boulevard. So, they were forced to demolish it and to present a project and from there it ended up with Palmares (…). In reality, the fire at the Moscú Restaurant started in Abatur’s offices, which were located in the same building. The confusion stems from the “Hotel under Construction” sign, but Palmares is a non-hotel company which services the tourism sector, it is not involved in hotel construction. (…) Last I heard, whatever is built there will be managed one hundred percent by CubaSol S.A. (an umbrella for companies that service the tourism sector like Caracol, Transtur, Marlin and Palmares S.A., among others) but without foreign capital for investment,” stated the official.
Vista área de las ruinas del restaurante Moscú (Foto: Archivo)
However, other sources state that the loti s being reclaimed for a small city hotel which will be managed by the French company Accor, and whose owner would be the military construction entity Almest S.A., which belongs to GAESA.
“It will definitely be a hotel, although at street level there will be commercial space and nightclubs, piano-bar, all under the name Montmartre,” states the Cuban director of an European company established in the island that is interested in managing one of the commercial spaces at the future facility.
“The idea belonged to Palmares, without a hotel, but now control will be transferred to GAE (GAESA), and the hotel is a sure thing on the upper floors, above a commercial gallery similar to that of the Manzana Kempinski Hotel, all very exclusive. (…) Gaviota will not manage the complex, not even the hotel, that will go to Accor which has been asking for a long time for a spot in El Vedado (…). It was proposed to Accor to manage the hotel at K and 23rd [popularly known as the “K Tower” across from the Coppellia ice cream parlor] but Accor turned it down (…) because there is no certainty that it can be booked to more than 50% capacity. Not even Gaviota wants to manage the “K Tower”. They are looking frantically for someone to join them in dealing with that monstrosity,” states our source.
GAESA’s ambition is more powerful
The hotel or commercial gallery-hotel that will probably be built on the ruins of the Moscú Restaurant apparently was never in GAESA’s plans. The lot on “P” Street where it will be located is not described or proposed on any of the Foreign Investment Opportunities Portfolio elaborated by Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce since 2013 until the most recent one in 2022 where, in contrast, other important lots have been listed, such as the square block lot of the Payret movie and theater house, and the “K” Street and 23rd lot, where at present there are several hotel projects underway for the tourism sector.
In fact, the latter, officially named “Lot 11” and popularly known as the “López-Calleja Tower” (after the general who is president of GAESA and former son-in-law of Raúl Castro), is included in the 2022 edition as a hotel project still in search of management and marketing by a foreign company. This, in spite of the fat that two years ago, in a note published in the official daily Granma, it was announced that the hotel would be managed in full by Gaviota S.A., without any foreign participation whatsoever. Without a doubt, in light of the critical tourism situation, the super-hotels that have been constructed are beginning to become white elephants that cannot be handled.
Además del local y terrenos del Moscú la nueva instalación comprendería instalaciones como las de la esquina de 23 y P (Foto: Archivo de CubaNet)
The same thing is happening with the hotel on 1st and “B” (officially named “Lot 5” and christened as Hotel Grand Aston for marketing purposes) whose inauguration is set for March 15 although occupancy will not be above 20% at best.
“Things are not going well. They’ve had to go out to get help because otherwise these hotels will report loses, as there is no projection of occupancy above 20% of capacity, not even in an optimistic, five-year projection. Simply stated, the expected number of tourists will not materialize, and now they want to pass the problem on to others like a hot potato,” stated a Gaviota S.A. official to CubaNet.
“They continue to build because it’s a booming business, where resources are maneuvered at such volume, the money is difficult to control. It doesn’t matter if when the hotels are finished they are filled to capacity or remain empty; the entire process generates money for the elite in power, lots of money (…). And so, they will continue to insist that these are necessary investments when everyone knows that the hotels will remain empty (…); they already acknowledged that they cannot handle “K” and 23rd, or 1st and “B”, but that does not deter them. They see that the Moscú Restaurant lot is being cleared and they want it, they fight for it because to build is to make money (…). What they need now is some idiot who will believe that the hotel facilities will be occupied to 80%. How can they attain that if there are no tourists? There won’t be any tourists for a long time, certainly not the high-standard tourists they are counting on and for whom Cuba is not prepared as it has nothing to offer beyond sun, beaches and jineteras, i.e. young prostitutes. Whoever accepts the offer of managing those hotels better be ready to lose money. These people are scoundrels,” states the official.
The arrival of tourists to Cuba in 2021 dropped 67%, according to data published by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym), which means 573,944 travelers of the 3 million that were forecast in 2018.
This notwithstanding, the Tourism Ministry hopes to complete more than 100,000 hotel guest rooms by 2030, as it is counting on welcoming more than 6 million visitors. Most of these hotel guest rooms, or at least the best among them, will have been constructed by GAESA through projects (hotels and non-hotel facilities alike) that add up to investments of over US$1 billion, as promoted in the most recent Opportunities Portfolio.

That is the case of the Malecón and 7th Lot, available for the construction of a five-star hotel featuring 300 guest rooms, valued at US$ 90 million; the Línea and Paseo Lot, featuring 200 luxury guest rooms and valued at US$40 million; and the 23rd and “B” Lot in El Vedado, available for construction of a 150-guest-room hotel, valued at US$30 million.

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GAESA Is about to Inaugurate Two New Hotels in Havana

HABANA, Cuba. – Amidst a deep economic crisis and with the worst indicators for the tourism sector in the last decade, due to a drop of close to 67% in the arrival of visitors to the island, the Cuban regime is getting ready to inaugurate two new, high standards hotels in Havana, both owned by GAESA, the military business consortium that dominates the Cuban economy.
Next March 21st, the Gran Bristol Hotel will open officially in Havana. It is located close to the Capitol building. The week before, on the 15th, the Grand Aston Hotel, located on 1st and Avenue D in El Vedado, will open its doors.
According to its official Facebook page, the Gran Bristol Hotel Havana –which features 162 guest rooms and an infinity pool on the 9th floor terrace- aims to start operations this March. International marketing for the hotel is being handled by the European chain Kempinski, which has managed with Gaviota S.A. the Gran Manzana Hotel in the former Manzana de Gómez in Old Havana since 2017, and another five-star hotel in Cayo Guillermo.
Hotel Gran Aston a unos días de su inauguración oficial (Foto tomada de internet)
The present Gran Hotel Bristol is located on the same site where the Roma boarding house used to be. Then, after 1920, it became the Gran Hotel, which existed until the 1960’s when, amidst the chaos of appropriations ordered by Fidel Castro’s government, it was left to deteriorate into the deplorable structure it is today: one of many tenement houses. These tenements are very crowded and they are evidence of the housing deficit in the country. However, the restauration and recovery of these buildings for the international tourism sector have no positive repercussions or improvements to the living conditions of their former tenants (now displaced to peripheral neighborhoods). Neither do they benefit the neighboring communities that continue to be exposed to buildings collapsing and causing casualties, including children, like the one that occurred in January 2020, very close to the new hotel.
El Gran Hotel Bristol junto a los obras de la Manzana Payret, que también será hotel y galería comercial (Foto: CubaNet)
The Grand Aston La Habana Hotel, with more than 600 guest rooms distributed among two twin towers, will be managed jointly with Gaviota S.A. by the Archipiélago International chain, which is located iin Yakarta, Indonesia. Archipiélago plans to expand to more than 3,000 guest rooms at various tourism poles in Cuba, where it has been operating since 2019. Back then, it inaugurated the Grand Aston Cayo Las Brujas Hotel, with 700 guest rooms, and also took over the joint management of another hotel, the Aston Panorama Hotel in Havana, in an agreement with GAESA.
Las viejas edificaciones se restauran pero no para viviendas, a pesar de la situación critica (Foto: CubaNet)
Between both new hotels, Gaviota S.A. will add some 800 guest rooms to its portfolio, thus coming closer to attaining the 50,000 additional guest rooms it aims to build and manage in the whole island for 2025. This, in spite of the fact that, of the 25,000 guest rooms that it has at the present time, most remain vacant, either because of a lack of guests or because of the deteriorated state some find themselves in. Regardless, this number of guest rooms has placed Archipiélago at the top of the lists that are regularly published by Reportur, a tourism publication.
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There Is a Shortage of Floor-Shammies: Hotels Will Get Cleaned, Homes Will Remain Dirty

HAVANA, Cuba, – Once again, floor-shammies –that indispensable item with which homes and other places inhabited by humans are kept clean- have disappeared from the retail stores throughout Cuba. The country’s rulers are bent on producing them domestically, However, out of four factories equipped to manufacture this product, only one is operant, which means that production will not meet consumer demand.
A recent article in the official daily Granma revealed that a shortage of raw materials, mostly imported, has influenced the low levels of production.  The country does not have the necessary funds with which to import these raw materials. Also, the technological obsolescence of Cuba’s industry inhibits production.
The plan for 2021 projected a production of 3 million floor-shammies, but only 2.4 million were manufactured, and only half of those was delivered to the Ministry of Domestic Commerce (MINCIN) for sale to the population. The rest of the shammies was delivered to Tourism and Public Health –especially to Tourism- which classify as main consumers of this product.
Things being what they are, for 2022 the plan is for the sole floor-shammies factory –Sarex, in Villa Clara province- to manufacture 900,000 units. This is a very small quantity of shammies, and will only worsen the shortages of this product.
It should not surprise us that the Cuban government continues to prioritize tourism at the expense of the Cuban population, just as it has done since it came to power. Now we learn about the floor shammies. Maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to rerouting basic-need products to the tourism sector. The government takes these products from the population: meats, shellfish, tubers, fruits and vegetables, for example, must be added to the list.
It isn’t hard to understand, therefore, that a majority of Cuban citizens feel animosity
toward foreign tourists who come to Cuba to consume what little there is in the country. This feeling is made worst by the public’s knowledge that the earnings from tourism end up in the personal coffers of the military, chief among them General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, that dark and mysterious character who, for lack of a better name, has been labeled as president Díaz-Canel’s advisor. Never has an advisor been so powerful!
It is clear that the ruling elite wishes for tourism to once again reach the number of foreign visitors that will allow the country to recuperate part of the hard currency that today it lacks. However, it will not be an easy task. First of all, there are many deficiencies in the island’s tourist facilities, and second, because of the high competition the tourist sector poses in the rest of the Caribbean.
In order to have an idea of the Cuban debacle, from 3,716,000 tourists that came to Cuba in 2019, only 1,084,000 came in 2021. This drop cannot be blamed solely on the coronavirus, for the pandemic also affected the Dominican Republic and still, close to 5 million foreign tourists visited the neighboring island last year.
The Cuban regime will say that at least there are floor-shammies in the hotels. It doesn’t matter that the population will have none. Hotels will get cleaned, but homes will remain dirty.
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Hotels in Cuba, Where the Customer is Never Right

HAVANA, Cuba. – She thought she would have the best Christmas of her life, having paid close to 6,000 pesos a day (about US$ 80) for a double room at the Roc Arenas Doradas Hotel in Varadero, but she ended up experiencing “a nightmare.” That’s how Dunia describes her three-day stay at that hotel facility which, in spite of claiming four-star status, could rate as a cheap highway motel due to the dismal service, in the opinion of some clients.
On the travel platform Tripadvisor, the negative ratings -like Dunia’s- abound, most of them written by Cuban clients, mostly, between November 2021 and the early days of January 2022. The complaints explain that those clients believed the promos of the Majorcan hotel chain and Cuba’s travel reservation desks, only to be totally frustrated, angry for having been duped at Christmas time.
This should not be a guest room at a four-star hotel in Varadero, but it is (Credit: Photo uploaded by a client of Arenas Doradas)
“They promise much more than they can realistically deliver,” Dunia believes. She has rated the hotel facility in Varadero as 1 on a scale of 1 to 5, only because the website does not allow clients to enter a lower rating. There are also no possibilities in Cuba’s courts for filing a lawsuit for fraud against any foreign or domestic hotel chain for lack of adequate laws –or for not abiding properly to the ones that exist- that protect the consumer.
Filthy hotel rooms, disheveled and poorly decorated; broken air-conditioning systems, lack of hot water in the bathrooms; an overcrowded and delayed check-in process; old furniture; poorly-served and poorly-elaborated meals; total apathy from the service personnel; discrimination against Cuban clients in comparison to foreign clients; in short, a long list of calamities that indicates how bad the tourism product is, designed with malice to empty quickly the pockets of the very few Cubans who can afford these hotels, and not to inspire them to return as satisfied customers.
Decor at Roc Arenas Doradas evidently are not the best for this hotel (Credit: Photo taken by a Tripadvisor user)
“Very poor service, I left quite disappointed,” writes Darian, a Tripadvisor user, adding: “One had to stand on line to have a cup of coffee, the guest rooms were terrible, no manners (among staff), the food was awful, and when I approached the bar to ask for a drink, the bartender was on the phone while people waited to be served.”
Another Cuban Tripadvisor user, who identified himself as Ale C, rates his stay at Arenas Doradas as “a disaster” and also mentions the awful quality of meals, as well as poor service on the part of the staff. Those same two negative comments were given by user Kenny Jesús, who as early as November 2021 warned that the hotel was in no condition to be opened, that the swimming pool was filthy and lacked chlorine, and that “discontent among workers, like lack of motivation” was noticeable.
Evaluations for Arenas Dorada Hotel on Tripadvisor are not good. One experience from January of this year (Screenshot)
However, conditions at the Spanish Roc hotel chain’s Arenas Doradas is by no means the only case. The same applies to the Grand Memories in Varadero, managed by the Canadian company Blue Diamond, with more than a dozen hotel facilities in the island, which have received many client complaints, especially during the last few days now that a video is circulating on social media that describes what a disaster “the Christmas celebrations” were at that place.
Typical of those vacation days were people fighting for food at a buffet table, and insults exchanged between waiters and clients, as if far from being a five-star hotel, it was a crowded neighborhood joint where Cubans fight among each other violently to purchase food products on a daily basis.
The Blau Varadero, one of the least recommended (Screenshot/Facebook)
“The hotel offers the worst service, there is no cleanliness (…). The guest rooms are in bad condition, and they sell it to you as a five-star hotel. The water in the swimming pool was green. Connection to Internet, the worst. The television sets do not work. There are no lights in the bathrooms, and the food was worse than in a worker’s mess hall. The bathroom in the pool area was so dirty it was embarrassing,” were among the complaints another Tripadvisor user named Stephany, mentioned.
Another Tripadvisor client complaint on January 1: “Room service was horrible. In order to get clean sheets and towels, you had to hound the attendants, and they even got angry.” (ScreenShot)
“I do not agree that foreign tourists get ahead of Cuban nationals just for being foreigners, Cuban nationals get hurt (…), the check-in is slow and on top of that, when you’ve been standing there for long hours and you hear that foreigners should be serviced first because they are foreigners, your day is ruined, after all, we are both paying,” Tripadvisor user ‘eleufridolafontana688’ commented a few days ago about the same hotel.
Foreign brands, like Iberostar and Meliá, who have a larger presence and greater investments in the island, as well as better ratings on travel websites on the Internet, also have negative criticism and bad ratings from foreign and Cuban clients due to the bad conditions in several of their installations and mistreatment on the part of the service staff, in contrast with the complements and positive evaluations those same hotel chains received in other countries in the region, like the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Such differences in the tourism product that is sold leads us to think clearly about where the guilt lies, since the problems seems to be not so much the result of poor administrations but of the management on the Cuban side who owns the hotels and is responsible for the training and contracting of personnel to work there. The Cuban side is also responsible for supply mechanisms and for abiding by the financial commitments that the foreign side has accepted because they are obligated for mere political reasons to sell on the national market part of its tourism product in currency that has no value, such as the Cuban peso.
“We cannot do any more with what we have,” admits the director of another four-star hotel in Varadero under condition of anonymity. His hotel is a target, also, of negative criticism on social networks.
Photo taken by a Tripadvisor user
Our source states: “You’ll find different opinions, all of them justified. Some clients arrive the week we received delivery of supplies, but others arrive when we have nothing (…), it’s not always because of mistakes, but because of plans that are made based on the number of foreign clients. When the deals are completely in national currency, everything gets adjusted to that currency. The differences lie therein.”
However, José Luis, a worker at the Arenas Doradas Hotel, indicates that the reason for the poor quality of services is the general discontent of workers due to their low wages and to the fact that the national clientele leaves very little profit margin. He also stated that, even for foreigners, the deals offered were not the best they could be, neither was there variety in the last days of the year. He feels that this crisis will extend for a longer period of time.
Screenshort TripAdvisor
“The greatest criticism is toward the services, the mistreatment, the fact that staff feels bad, they receive no stimulus, they leave because there’s nothing to find. There’s practically no maintenance personnel, sometimes we have to clean the swimming pools ourselves because cleaning staff that is contracted leaves after a week, there is only one worker left for all the maintenance. It’s not like before (…). One compensated with the tips or with whatever one could hustle here and there. Cubans not only leave no tips, but they come to raid the place. Cubans take very seriously the “all included” clause, and will hustle even for a sliver of soap. They are like leaf-cutter ants and leave nothing behind along their trail (…). Foreign clients are given priority, but they don’t get different food, it’s the same, the problem is that there is nothing available, I wish you could see the warehouses, it will make you want to cry, we cook whatever there is on a daily basis. And nothing will improve. Things will get worse,” is this worker’s conclusion.
For the moment, the stories will not cease on social networks about the bad experiences tourists have in several hotel facilities in the island. With the goal of avoiding or alleviating these bad experiences, groups are created on Facebook and WhatsApp, where people search for advice or issue warnings, as the last resort left in a country where the regime controls everything to its benefit, and to the detriment of the majority. Make no mistake about it: the customer is seldom right.
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Construction of Luxury Hotels Is on the Rise in Cuba

MADRID, Spain. – Between 2014 and 2020, five-star hotel guest rooms rose from 37.3% to 46.9% of the total hotel guestrooms in Cuba, according to statistics shared by Cuban economist Pedro Monreal.
In six years, approximately 12,500 luxury guest rooms were built, in spite of a decrease in the number of guests arriving in the island since before the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Monreal through his Twitter account.
However, and according to this specialist’s report, between 2014 and 2018, The per-tourist income in the Cuban economy (9.3%) was much lower than the rise in the number of visitors (56.4%), which indicates that the quality of tourism that visits the island, as far as purchasing power is concerned, has also decreased.
“The delay in correcting the sector’s deformed structure regarding domestic investment is one of the main insufficiencies in Cuba’s economic policy. It poses a problem to continue assuming that the present pattern of investment is compatible with the process of development,” added the economist.
At the start of this week, the Cuban government presented tourism projects to Spanish hotel businessmen, among them one about increasing hotel capacity to 95,000 guest rooms, and generate more than 6,000 visitors by 2030.
Juan Carlos García Granda, Cuba’s minister of Tourism, encouraged European entrepreneurs to invest in Cuba. “In spite of the campaigns that distort our reality, I invite all of you to visit us and corroborate it yourselves. We are a safe country, we are vaccinated, and friendly, with lots to offer along the lines of health tourism, nature tourism, patrimonial and cultural tourism, and beaches.”
The increase of hotel constructions, which did not stop even during the pandemic, stands in sharp contrast with the housing problems that the Cuban people have historically endured, as well as the lesser capital earmarked for other sectors, like Health and Agriculture.
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Yes, the Capital Invested in the Construction of Hotels is Cuban Capital

HAVANA, Cuba. – During the last several weeks, thousands of Cuban men and women have protested or voiced their indignation on social media for the sharp contrast between the construction of hotels in Cuba and the dilapidated state of hospitals and the dismal state of public health in general.
The construction of tourism facilities, carried out mostly by the military corporate conglomerate known as GAESA (founded in Panama as an off-shore company of the Cuban Armed Forces in the 1980s), has not been stopped even for a minute during a year-and-a-half of crisis aggravated by COVID-19; they have not altered their construction and delivery schedules. However, the irresponsible and inefficient handling of public health contingencies is obvious, compounded by the deplorable state of medical attention in the context of perpetual shortages of medications and food together, and the deterioration of hospital infrastructure and related services.
While the two hotel towers being built on First and Avenue D, in El Vedado (with more than 600 guest rooms, at a cost of US$ 80 million) are almost ready for inauguration, and while the hotel complexes on 25th and Avenue K (also in El Vedado, with several floors already completed) and on Third and 70th Avenue in Miramar (which will headquarter a real estate firm and a shopping center that will replace the present area market), hospitals in the island are literally collapsing and the handful of ambulances that still run are falling to pieces. Not to speak of “medical attention”, which barely exists thanks to the huge personal effort of health personnel and international aid that is received nowadays as a result of individual campaigns and initiative to get donations to Cuba, since the government –controlled by the military- refuses to divert a single penny from hotel investment funds to other matters unrelated to their construction plans.
Against the constant protests by the independent press and on social media about the scandalous inequality, the most active and aggressive advocates of the Cuban regime –those whose government-funded work is not to produce goods but to monitor cyberspace, to fight freedom of expression and to justify that which is unjustifiable- argue that hotel development is not executed with Cuban capital but with funds from foreign investments. This is far from the truth.
Many people, both inside and outside Cuba, subscribe to this erroneous view, out of spite or naïveness, and they repeat the same erroneous information without researching even a minimum of published news, including those published by the Communist Party official press. If they did their research, they would corroborate easily the level of crime being committed in the island today by a handful of military strongmen who are more concerned about the number of tourists that will arrive in Cuba in 2030, than about the number of Cubans who die -and will die- of starvation or COVID-19 now in 2021. 
Not too far back in time, in May 2018, the Cuban News Agency published a report by Daysi Malvares Morel, Director of Development of the real-estate company Almest -which belongs to the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA, by its Spanish acronym)- about three hotel projects in Havana that were being built totally with Cuban capital.
She was referring to two buildings being raised at the time in the vicinity of Cuba’s National Aquarium, in lots located east of 70th street between First and Third Avenues. She was also referring to the construction –also with Cuban capital- of “a real estate complex that will extend from 68th Street westward to 70th Street,” around the site where another hotel was to be built, adjacent to Miramar’s Business Center and about 100 meters from the future administrative office –the first of its kind– of an American corporation, namely Sheraton.
In the end, this project did not materialize, due to the turn of events in the Obama thawing of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Cuban regime. However, the project still stands, and, according to information that officers of the construction company shared with us, Almest has not withdrawn its plans nor has it reduced the pace of construction, even though no foreign-management proposals have been received as of yet.
Will the Cuban government have to sell its hotels some day?

“There is money to do them, and they will spend it, but only in hotel-related expenses,” an anonymous source directly linked to the military conglomerate commented. The source also noted: “Almest’s policy, like GAESA’s in general, is not to work with foreign capital. They don’t need it, they’re not interested and it’s also not to their benefit. It works with the French (Bouygues Bâtiment International) because it’s a necessary evil, they need the specialized workforce which doesn’t exist in Cuba, but the hotels belong 100% to Almest, and part of this capital comes from rentals (of hotels) to Gaviota, and not just from that, but from all the other GAESA companies, of which there are many. Everything comes out of, and reverts to, the same bag.”
Also in mid-2018, and in agreement with the statements the directors of Almest made to the official press, in lots reserved by GAESA in the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolución, Playa and Habana Vieja alone, a construction plan for 7,500 new hotel guest rooms was authorized until 2025, all of them financed with Cuban capital.
Among the constructions included in this portfolio, the most salient is undoubtedly the 42-floor tower that will provide 565 guest rooms right across from the Coppelia Ice Cream parlor, the tallest hotel in Havana once it’s inaugurated in late 2022.
At a cost of over US$ 100 million, some people consider it unnecessary, because the rate of hotel occupancy, even before COVID-19 struck, was under 50%. In addition, this project was conceived for the tourism boom associated with the normalization of relations with the United States, which never happened.
Under those plans, from 2016 to the present, the hotel availability in Cuba increased by 15,000 new guest rooms, of which only 8,000 were finished between 2018 and 2020, while Cuba’s MINTUR has informed, through scattered official press releases, that it intends to build an equal number of guest rooms for 2022, even though no one knows as yet how “post-pandemic tourism” will perform.
As reported on the official news outlet Cubadebate between late 2018 and mid 2019, several MINTUR executives, among them the general director of the ministry’s Development, Business and Investments department, José Daniel Alonso, made reference to MINTUR’s “Development 2018-2030” plan, whose objective was “raise the number of hotel rooms by 83,000 units through implementation of 216 new hotel facilities, plus expansion and remodeling of another 77 facilities.” This is an ambitious plan that is not limited to hotels, but includes real estate development related to golf courses, theme parks, nature parks and marinas, to surpass every nation in Latin America.
In total, the plan includes 332 hotel projects to be implemented with 2/3 Cuban capital and 1/3 foreign capital. More than merely “ambitious”, the MINTUR plan’s estimated cost is more than US$ 19 billion, an amount far higher than what is assigned to productive activities, science and technological innovation, or culture and sports in the state’s budget between 2012 and 2018, according to data from Cuba’s Statistical Yearbook for those years. 
As majority investors in MINTUR’s plans, Gaviota S.A. and Almest construction and real estate company (sole owner of the facilities it builds) are responsible for 121 projects, at a cost of US$ 13 billion. This raises their participation to more that 70% of all tourism investment projects in the island. Once built, the hotels will provide a lodging capacity for Cuba that is higher than that of its competitors in the area, like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
In less than 20 years, and coinciding with the replacement of Fidel Castro by his brother Raúl in 2009, the military conglomerate GAESA –which in the 1990s managed barely 10% of the tourism market with less than 4,000 guest rooms- has transformed into the unquestionable leader of the sector, with more than 100,00 guest rooms. Also, it has become the major investor, yielding such financial power that, contrary to MINTUR’s own entities, it boasts about not having to accept participation of foreign capital ever in its construction plans.
According to sources which CubaNet consulted –since there is no published data at present, just that of 2018 and 2019– Almest allegedly assigned at least US$ 1.5 billion to finish about 10 projects in Varadero and the northern keys from Villa Clara to Camagüey.
According to Cuban economy researchers Richard E. Feinberg and Richard Newfarmer, before 2016, Gaviota S.A. would obtain some US$ 700 million per year, of which it would pay US$ 80 million to Almest for the rental of properties. Today, that figure has doubled. And, keeping in mind the total number of hotels it rents to other hotel chains, the money Almest received is much greater, and it doesn’t matter if the hotels are empty or full.
However, not only is there enough money for GAESA to build hotels in Havana and in other traditional tourist destinations like Varadero and Coco Key, but also there are other extremely costly projects in Santiago de Cuba, where, according to official press reports, since late 2018, the first “intelligent and sustainable” hotel in the Eastern region is under construction.
Raúl Castro himself has promised that he will be present at its inauguration, which means that they will hurry to finish it soon, whether there is tourism or not, if only to satisfy the wishes of the ninety-year-old dictator.
The hotel was conceived for tourists who are fanatics of Castro politics, and as such, according to its principal designer, “it offers quick access through Patria Avenue to the patrimonial Santa Ifigenia cemetery” (where Fidel Castro’s funeral niche is located). The project is being undertaken by Santiago de Cuba’s Empresa de Proyectos No. 15 (Emproy-15), and is promoted as “the most modern facility of its kind in the country.”
This hotel will enjoy a 5-star-plus category and is being built at a cost of US$ 90 million. It will have 452 guest rooms spread throughout its twin towers, 15 and 17 floors respectively, and its shape will evoke an undulating Cuban flag 72 meters tall.
According to Cubadebate, the hotel will feature a convention center, a ball room, five restaurants, a bar, a cafeteria, a physiotherapy gym, swimming pools and “all the components of a luxury facility” whose windows are made of special, imported, insulating glass “that will protect the building from the harmful effects of the sun” and which creates “an intermediate chamber with thermal bridge breakage (to control) heat transmission to the inside, as well as photovoltaic cells which, unlike traditional solar panels, are transparent and of a desired tone,” states the official news outlet. 
A waste of “our money” in the middle of a tragic health crisis. The stark reality is that, at this precise moment, Cuban men and women, left to fend for themselves, are becoming ill by the thousands and dying by the dozens, while they watch as more than 20 buildings rise at a rate of several meters per hour and guzzle tons of materials that are mostly imported, often from Europe and Asia, two markets whose geographic distance from Cuba has been used ad nauseam, along with the U.S. embargo, as the communist regime’s excuse to justify a financial and social disaster for more than half a century.   
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Will the Cuban government have to sell its hotels some day?

HAVANA, Cuba. – According to the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI by its Spanish acronym), during the first four months of 2021 –high tourism season– Cuba welcomed 64,712 foreign vacationers, which equals 6% of the 983,099 visitors that arrived in Cuba during the same period in 2020, and 3.4% of the 1.9 million who visited Cuba in 2019 during the same four months.
However, the construction of Gaviota Group luxury hotels and stores near the privileged coastal area of Third and 70th, in Miramar, did not stop. The enormous cranes working on the complex’s main tower only stopped moving in mid 2020 due to a VOCID-19 outbreak among the Cuban and Indian workers under contract with Empresa Inmobiliaria Almest, a company of the GAESA military conglomerate, in collaboration with the French company Bouygues Constructions.
A food line at the market on Third and 70th, across the street from the hotel complexunder construction (Credit: the author)
Across the street from the complex under construction, a hard-currency-only market is falling apart due to the apathy of the Cuban rulers and their loathing of the crowds that line up on food lines for hours and even days, depending on what products are being sold. This seems ominous of a very neoliberal future, much to the contrary of the historic discourse of the country’s leaders. Decades ago, the market on Third and 70th was the first to sell products in US Dollars, and later, in freely convertible currency.
To whom, and when, will they be able to rent the thousands of hotel rooms presently under construction in the tourism destinations becomes more uncertain every day. Nevertheless, the companies have to try to honor their construction contracts, and above all, pay the lenders. An incalculable number of years will have to elapse in order to pay off the costs. By then, maybe the Cuban food-line-makers will have left the country, or will have left their descendants deeply in debt.
Sections of Gaviota Group’s hotel complex under construction on Third and 70th, inMiramar (Credit: the author)
The negative effects of the loss of the emerging U.S. market and the world crisis vis a vis tourism due the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the lack of planning and the incompetence of those who bet the scant resources of the nation on the so-called Cuban economy engine.
The country’s leaders put all their eggs in the same basket, while traditional industries were becoming more obsolete every day, the sugar mills were being dismantled, and the government lost its patron starting on the first decade of the century: Venezuela.
In that context, the sale of hotels and other tourist facilities to wealthy foreigners was planned by those who were promoting the mad rush of hotel construction, which, in due time, they will justify as an inevitable solution.
The number of hotel rooms will continue to grow with the construction of hotels, said Manuel Marrero, then minister of Tourism, during a session of the National Assembly, as reported in the official daily Granma in July 2019.
Back then, the goal of the government was to exceed 5 million foreign visitors to Cuba, but only 4’275,558 actual tourists arrived, a decrease of 9.3%, that is, 436,352 less travelers than in 2018.
Tourism had been the second source of net hard-currency income for Cuba, following the sale of professional services to foreign countries, mostly of doctors, and remittances.
In March of 2020, COVID-19 hit Cuba, and entry to the country was closed starting in April. In mid-October, international tourism was once again opened to the keys and Varadero. The government set out to promote tourism to Cuba in new markets, especially the Russian.
The tower at Gaviota Group’s hotel complex presently under construction at Third and 70th, in Miramar (Credit: the author)
The arrival of Cuban nationals stranded in other countries was also allowed. Later on, visitor travel was allowed, as well as round trips to Russia by Cuban nationals, whose travel purposes were to bring shortage-affected merchandise here to sell surreptitiously.
When COVID-19 contagion skyrocketed, the authorities blamed it on violations of isolation protocols for Cuban travelers who were supposed to remain at their lodging destinations until they received a negative result of the PCR test performed at arrival. There were many complaints due to delays in communicating the test results; the government also blamed travelers and their hosts for a lack of discipline.
Starting in November of 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases increased, with a sustained resurgence throughout the country and the presence of several variants, among them the delta variant from India, which becomes serious very quickly and is more lethal, according to Cuban medical authorities.
Cases stemming from individuals traveling from Russia prevail, although tourists are supposed to remain isolated at the keys and Varadero. Starting on June 20th, new requirements were adopted for travelers, whether they reside in Cuba or not.
What remains in effect is the compulsory presentation of a negative result for a PCR test administered within 72 hours from arrival in Cuba. In addition, all reservations made at tourism facilities by Cuban nationals who reside permanently in Cuba were cancelled as of July 1st. 
Thus, a tourism boom gets farther and farther away as new outbreaks of coronavirus occur. 
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