HAVANA CLIMA

International Tourism

“Destination Cuba” Is Promoted in Uruguay

MADRID, Spain. – Cuban authorities participated on May 20th in the 67th Reunion of the Regional Commission of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, by its English acronym) held in Punta del Este, Uruguay. During the meeting, the Cuban delegation said it was certain that tourism had revived in the island following the impact of COVID-19.
According to the Cubaminrex website, Juan José Álvarez, legal director of Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism, and the Cuban ambassador to Uruguay, Zulan Popa, stated that the country’s visitor growth dynamic remains steady, adding that Cuba is projecting to welcome more than half the number of tourists in 2022 than it welcomed in 2019.
In the presence of Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, the Cuban officials mentioned that in March 2020, the Cuban government had implemented a preventive measures program to address the present pandemic, and that included protecting visitors.
They mentioned, also, the protection of Human capital, and the implementation of constructive actions in tourism facilities to elevate and maintain comfort standards.
Government insists on presenting Cuba as an ideal destination
Ever since in late 2021, Juan Carlos García Granda, Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, stated that for 2022, no less than 2.5 million tourists would be welcomed to Cuba, Cuban authorities have continued to present Cuba as a tourist destination in various international events.
Last February, after participating in the International Tourism Fair of Madrid (FITUR), the Cuban regime tried to promote “destination Cuba” in Turkey during the 25th Annual International Eastern Mediterranean Tourism and Travel Fair EMITT 2022.
At that fair, Cuban officials presented “their portfolio of ‘Cuba destination’ products, as well as the strengths of sun and beach, and Nature and health destinations.”
In April, a Cuban delegation participated in the International Tourism Exchange Fair (BIT) in Milan, with the goal of promoting Cuba as a tourist destination.
Other government strategies to revive tourism
Recently, Cuba organized the International Tourism Fair FITCuba 2022. Held at the Varadero resort, an agreement was signed during the event to promote health tourism in the island.
In another strategy aimed at reaching the 2.5 million tourist projections for 2022, the Cuban regime staged the event “For a Tourism for Every Generation” during which specific actions were discussed regarding the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism.
Also, Empresas Marinas y Náuticas S.A. and Havanatur revealed their nautical events programs for 2022, “as part of the present revival of the leisure industry in the country.”
This is all happening amidst the great economic crisis in the country that affects the average Cuban, and contrasts with the ongoing construction of new hotels.
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Ecological Cleaners for Tourism while the People Lack Basic Cleaning and Personal Hygiene Products

MADRID, Spain. – The joint venture Suchel Proquimia, which specializes in cleaning and disinfectant products, is developing an ecological line of products for sanitizing tourism facilities.
These articles will be placed in guest rooms, laundry rooms, pools and kitchens, according to a statement given to Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN, by its Spanish acronym) by Matanzas branch representative Fanny Pérez Sorí.
“These products are more economical that other product lines, and that includes their packaging,” stated the administrator. She added that their being less costly “did not affect the safety of items that make up the EcoConpack range of products.”
“Every article has been tested and certified under current International Organization for Standardization (ISO) regulations,” she emphasized.
Pérez Sorí also stated that the line’s concentrated laundry detergent is already being used at the Matanzas company for tourism services Servisa. Also, bathroom scale removers, anti-hard water gel and rinse-aid detergent have been tried already at the Iberostar Selection Varadero Hotel.
Suchel Proquimia guarantees the sustained production of hand sanitizing gels and will continue supplying detergents and degreasers with antibacterial properties for cleaning hotel kitchens and bathrooms as well as other tourism facilities, she added.
Crisis of cleaning and personal hygiene products in Cuba
During the last year, the Cuban has been informing about delays in the production of cleaning and personal hygiene products sold to the people through the ration card, aka the assigned family basket.
Cubans must acquire these products on the black market, where a bar of soap can cost up to 50 Cuban pesos, and toothpaste up to 300 pesos. There is no supply of these products available in national currency stores. However, in hard-currency stores, which are better supplied, Cubans with foreign hard currency must stand on long lines to shop.
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“April Will Fare Better than March”: Cuban Regime Celebrates a Gradual Recovery in Tourism

MIAMI, United States. – Cuba’s Minister of Econony and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernández, said last Monday that the island was showing “a tendency toward gradual recovery” of the tourism sector, due to the arrival of 313,908 foreign visitors during the First Quarter 2022.
During last Monday’s Council of Ministers meeting for the month of April, Gil Fernández referred to the progress of the Economy Plan and particularly to the performance of the tourism sector in the island following two years of coronavirus pandemic, according to official Cuban news media.
The minister stated that during March alone, 128,159 international visitors had arrived in the country, for both business and personal travel, a number that is way higher than the 12,552 registered visitors for the same month in 2021.
“There has been a month-to-month increase this year, and April is projected to perform better than March,” stated Gil Fernández. “The nation’s tourism sector has performed favorably,” he added.
According to date provided by Cuba’s National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym), only 573,944 international travelers visited Cuba last year, a decrease of 60% when compared to 2020.
Meanwhile, between January and February of this year, 185,749 foreign tourists visited Cuba, an increment of 522.5% when compared to the same period in 2021, according to ONEI’s data.
Cuba’s principal tourist market for the first two months of 2022 were Canada, in first place with 40,821 visitors, and Russia in second place with 35,871 visitors.
In 2021, the Russian market outdid the Canadian market; Canada had traditionally occupied first place as a source of tourists to Cuba. However, cancellation of Russian airline flights due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made the numbers plummet in that sector.
“This situation means that Cuba will find it hard to meet its objective of welcoming 2.5 million tourists in 2022,” stated Paolo Spadoni to the Reuters news agency, Spadoni is an expert on the Cuban economy who teaches at the University of Augusta, in the state of Georgia.
However, “the country will not give up on its goal to welcome in 2022 close to 2.5 million tourists,” stated Cuba’s Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, in March.
According to the Spanish news agency EFE, the Cuban economy would receive US$1.159 billion if it meets the government’s goal of welcoming 2.5 million visitors in 2022.
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Aeroflot Operates Special Flights to Cuba to Repatriate Russian Tourists

MIAMI, United States. – This weekend, the Russian airline Aeroflot ran special flights to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in order to bring back to Russia those tourists stranded in various Caribbean countries following the closing of airspace to Russian aircrafts by the United States, Canada and the European Union, according to the official daily Juventud Rebelde.
According to Aeroflot, Cuban nationals are accepted on the flights to Cuba, while on the flights back from Cuba, they will be allowed to fly only when the last Russian national has been repatriated.
Specifically, the airline stated that it will operate a regular flight to Havana, Cuba, and another one to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on March 5th and 6th.
According to Juan Carlos Escalona, tourism advisor at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow, more than 5,500 Russian vacationists are stranded in the island at the present time.
Last Wednesday, the Russian Association of Tour Operators (ATOR) indicated that repatriation flights for stranded Russian tourists in Cuba and other Caribbean countries, like Mexico and the Dominican Republic would not be halted in spite of U.S. airspace being closed to Russian aircrafts.
The closing of airspace “will not affect the schedule of repatriation flights (…). Routes will be modified slightly and flights will go totally over neutral waters,” stated the organization.
“All repatriation flights from the Caribbean will be carried on. We will fly over neutral waters,” confirmed Anna Podgornaya, executive director of PEGAS Touristik.
Last February 28th, Azur Air, Aeroflot, Air France-KLM and Royal Flights, the main airlines that run the Cuba-Russia itinerary, cancelled reservations and flights due to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and Canada for its invasion of Ukraine.
Under those circumstances, Aeroflot approved “special flights” to the Caribbean this week in order to repatriate stranded Russian tourists.
The cancellation of flights between Cuba and Russia could be an obstacle to the Cuban government’s plans that focus on increasing tourism as a solution to the economic crisis the country is enduring, especially in light of the number of Russian visitors that come to the island.
According to official data, a total of 146,151 Russian tourists arrived in Cuba in 2020. In mid 2021, more than half of all registered tourists in the island were Russian.
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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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The Cuban Government Is Banking on Nautical Tourism

MADRID, Spain. – The companies Empresa Marinas and Náuticas Marlin S.A., and Havanatur, presented their calendar of nautical events for 2022, “as part of the recovery process the country is experiencing in the leisure industry,” according to the official outlet Cubadebate.
The companies’s directors announced the 70th International Tournament Marlin Fishing as one of the principal events, to take place from May 23rd to the 28th, and includes Capture, Mark and Release modes.
Also, they highlighted the XII Edition of Fotosub Varadero 2022, from July 21st to the 25th for certified divers. The competitions –composed of four dives- will be held in the morning. Teams can include one photographer and one assistant.
In addition, they mentioned the International Competition of Sports Fishing “Big Game Trolling”, which will take place in the Jardines del Rey tourism pole in October.
As stated by Daibel Pérez, Marketing director, Cuba’s nautical enterprise aims to consolidate itself with these events.
Daibel Pérez stated that Marlin S.A. will participate in the 40th International Tourism Fair (FITCuba) 2022, from May 3rd to the 7th, where it will present a new diving center jointly with the Russian company Siberian Diving.
FITCuba 2022, which will take place at Plaza América Convention Center, Varadero, Matanzas, is honoring Russia; Cuban authorities did not reconsider that invitation after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the contrary, Cubadebate indicated that “should there be any doubt about whether the present circumstances will interfere with the realization of the Fair, non-official sources commented that the whole planet has done virtual events and, if the physical presence of participants becomes difficult, there will still be professional and commercial exchanges.”

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First LGBTI+ Hotel Is Inaugurated in Havana

MADRID, Spain. – The Telégrafo Axel Hotel, owned by Gaviota S.A. Tourism Group, will be inaugurated this Tuesday as the first hotel of the LGBTI+ community in Cuba’s capital.
Located on Prado Boulevard in La Habana Vieja, where the Telégrafo Hotel once stood, it has 63 guest rooms, a restaurant, a bar lounge, fitness centers, and a sky bar and swimming pool on the roof terrace.
The four-star hotel is very close to tourism’s points of interest, such as El Floridita and the Bodeguita del Medio.

Axel Hotels Communication and Marketing Director, Silvia Pérez Viñolas, stated about the hotel’s opening that, “Freedom and respect are the most important values, wherein inclusion and diversity are promoted above all. For that reason, we reflect our philosophy in all our services and personnel.”
Founded in 2003, Axel Hotels is an international hotel chain, a subsidiary of Axel Corporation, that targets the LGTN+ community with installations in Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, Saint Sebastian, Grand Canary, Miami and Berlin.
The military consortium GAESA had announced the opening of the Telégrafo Axel Hotel in June 2021. The announcement sparked negative reactions from many people, especially among activists of the LGTB+ community in Cuba.
At that time, Raúl Soublett, founder of the Afro-Cuba Alliance, pronounced himself against the priorities of the Cuban government, namely hotels instead of more civil rights.
“Why don’t you guarantee laws that can protect us from discrimination, from violence,” he implored.
Trans activist Kiriam Gutiérrez questioned “how many Cuban LGBTIQA+ will be able to afford just one night at this hotel?
“It’s because of things like this that Cuba’s LGBTIQA+ community must organize itself from the vantage point of independent activism, because we don’t want hotels, nor discotheques, nor restaurants, nor bars. We want rights, we want same-sex marriage, we want assisted reproduction for same-sex couples, we want protection for trans children, we want laws that penalize homophobia and transphobia, we want a gender identity law, a Trans Law,” Gutiérrez added.
The first LGBTI-friendly hotel in Cuba opened in 2019 in Cayo Guillermo, one of the country’s principal keys.
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Aeroflot Cancels Its Flights to Cuba

MADRID, Spain. – Russian airline Aeroflot cancelled its flights to Cuba, Mexico, the United States and the Dominican Republic, due to the closing of Canadian airspace to Russia.
In a communiqué published this Sunday, the airline announced that, between February 28 and March 2, 2022, all transatlantic roundtrip flights had been cancelled between Moscow and the following destinations: Cuba (Havana – SU150/151; Varadero – SU154-155); Mexico (Cancun – SU158/159); United States (Los Angeles – SU108/109; Miami – SU110/111; New York – SU 102/103 and SU124/125; Washington – SU104/105); Dominican Republic (Punta Cana – SU156/157).
Aeroflot announced that updates to future flights for these itineraries would be published on its website and on the official social network accounts of the airline; it also asked passengers to stay abreast of changes in flight schedules.
Individuals who had already purchased a ticket will be able to obtain a reimbursement at the place where they purchased it.
Those who purchased tickets through websites, they can request reimbursement by calling these telephone numbers, available around the clock: +7495 223 5555, 8-800-444-5555 (calls are free-of-charge within Russia), *555 (for mobile telephones), contact centers free-of-charge worldwide, through the comments questionnaires on the airline’s website, or at its own sales offices.
The director of communications of Canada’s ministry of Transportation, Valerie Glazer, informed the AFP agency this Sunday that, “The government of Canada forbids the operation in Canadian airspace of any aircraft that is owned, chartered or operated by Russian interests,” in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Starting Monday, all flights to Europe are cancelled due to the European Union’s decision to close its airspace to Russian aircraft, which it announced on the day before by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
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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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Cuban Government Announces Tourism Fair 2022

MADRID, Spain. – The Cuban government announced on Monday, February 21 that it would hold the 40th International Tourism Fair (FITCuba) 2022 this coming May 3rd through May 7th.
The event will take place at the Plaza América Convention Center, in Varadero, Matanzas, which was recently renovated, according to Prensa Latina.
Zulema Afá, event organizer for the resort, explained that “participants in what is the tourism sector’s main marketplace held in the country will find meeting rooms readied and equipped with new technologies, as required at the present time.”
Three simultaneous forums will be held during the fair that will address business, technology and events, and incentives. There will be an expo fair for tourism exhibitors and suppliers.
With a secondary venue at the Meliá Las Américas Hotel, FITCuba-2022 will include tour operators, hoteliers, travel agents and sector managers.
“We have improved all tourist services in the country, and at this pole we have worked hard on the issue of accessible and sustainable tourism; on technology, like, for example, the Varadero Ciudad Digital project; and, in general, on everything that we can provide our clients,” Zulema Afá indicated.
And she added: “I am happy but not quite satisfied. The work has been tough, but we aim to do it better. We have to put all our resources on the product. Those of us who are in love with our product are willing to do even more. FITCuba will be a success,” she added.
The remodeling of the Convention Center, located in one of Cuba’s flagship resorts, included the expansion of three meeting halls “and other areas in order to give clients better opportunities.”
As Afá explained that service spaces were expanded: parking lots, the Marlin marina, as well as the Arts and Crafts Fair which services the various entities that promote cultural products.
In addition, equipment and fittings were improved, and the structural systems of the Plaza were remodeled; the gastronomical services at the restaurants, cafeterias and bard were refurbished.
In its effort to promote tourism, the Cuban government is organizing and participating in tourism fairs everywhere, as was the case in Turkey whose fair took place in Istanbul in early February. For the occasion, Cuban authorities expressed that “tourism will undoubtedly stand out once more in the daily lives of people due to its resilience,” and added that “Cuba is confident that it will become one of the favorite tourism destinations in the Caribbean, with new features and heightened quality of service.”
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Varadero, the Second, Best Beach in the World, According to Tripadvisor

MADRID, Spain. – Tripadvisor, the travel platform, placed Varadero in second place on its Top 25 best beaches list in the world for 2022
“A postcard landscape, the finest sand and the bluest water I have ever seen in my life,” is how Tripadvisor described Varadero based on opinions posted by its users who have visited the Cuban beach. Varadero is located in the Hicacos Peninsula, and has been international tourism’s favorite destination, bar none.
Grace Bay came out in first place. It is located in Turks and Caicos and is described by visitors as “An idyllic place with golden sand, blue crystal-clear waters, and gentle waves. As if taken out of a postcard.”
Turquoise Bay, Exmouth, Australia placed third on the list: “Words cannot describe how spectacular this beach really is. Long stretches of white sandy beaches and blue crystal-clear waters. World-class snorkeling for beginners and experienced swimmers.”
To make its selection, Tripadvisor took the most popular places reviewed by travelers, taking into account the quality and quantity of evaluations about the beaches, between January 2021 and December 31, 2021.
The Best 25 Beaches 2022

Grace Bay: Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos Island
Varadero: Varadero, Cuba
Turquoise Bay: Exmouth, Australia
Quarta Praia: Morro de São Paulo, Brazil
Eagle Beach: Palm – Eagle Beach, Aruba
Radhanagar Beach: Havelock Island, India
Baia do Sancho: Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Trunk Bay Beach: Virgin Islands National Park, United States Virgin Islands
Pipa Beach Baía dos Golfinhos: Praia da Pipa, Brazil
Isola dei Conigli: Rabbit Island, Sicily
Cable Beach: Australia
Falesia Beach: Portugal
Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area: Puako, Hawaii
Siesta Beach: Siesta Key, Florida
Maho Bay Beach: Cruz Bay, St. John
Poipu Beach Park: Poipu, Hawaii
Playa de Muro Beach: Playa de Muro, Spain
Manuel Antonio Beach: Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
North Beach: Isla Mujeres
Nungwi Beach: Nungwi, Tanzania
Magens Bay: Magens Bay, St. Thomas
Nissi Beach: Ayia Napa, Cyprus
Bávaro Beach: Bávaro, Dominican Republic
Balos Lagoon: Kissamos, Greece
Yonaha Maehama Beach: Miyakojima, Japan

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Experiences Not Included in the Tourist Travel Package: Having to Push a Bus

MADRID, Spain. – During their stay in Cuba, a group of tourists had to push the bus they were traveling on, which belonged to Grupo Empresarial Transtur S.A.
In a video shared recently through social media, one can see a group of about six or seven foreigners trying to re-start the broken vehicle in the tourist zone of Old Havana.
“The gringos pushing the bus.” “It isn’t moving,” you can hear a surprised female passerby exclaim.
It is common to see down-to-earth Cubans in similar situations, due to how old and deteriorated many cars used as taxis are; but such occurrence is rare with vehicles earmarked for tourism, because tourism is a priority sector for the Cuban government.
In October of last year, Transtur S.A. announced the arrival of 800 new automobiles for the tourism industry which it purchased from the Korean manufacturer Hyunda.
For the occasion, Transtur expressed on Facebook: “There is no better way to celebrate the 41st anniversary than welcoming these brand-new cars, with zero mileage, modern and comfortable. They will soon be available to our clients who rent cars throughout Cuba.”
The announcement was widely rejected by Cubans who were irate about the state of public transportation in the country.
“You spend an hour at a bus stop because the buses don’t meet demand, and they are the same ones from 10 years ago;” “Tell me who in this country, on an average salary, can afford to rent such luxuries;” “Cars the government will rent to tourists and keep the money, but they can’t import food products for the people,” were several of the comments.
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Tourism in Cuba Is Not Experiencing a Recovery Quite Yet

MADRID, Spain, – Tourism in Cuba has not managed to recover quite yet since the reopening of its borders on November 15, a year and a half after they were closed due to COVID-19.
According to a Radio y Televisión Martí report, the residents of Havana themselves attest to that.
Statements made by Naira Montano, a worker at an arts-and-craft store that depends mostly on tourism, indicate that “it’s still not like in previous years.”
“Sales are still not enough to allow us to depend solely on tourism,” stated Montano.
Pablo Pe2rez, another merchant in Havana, stated that many hotels are empty because tourism has decreased due to the news about the precarious situation in Cuba.
Raúl González, a resident of Havana, said: “I have seen a slight increase in tourism, but not what was expected by this time; it should have improved starting in January, and we are approaching late February.”
The Keys, which are one of the principal attractions for foreign visitors, are not seeing too many tourists either.
Statistics provided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization indicate that the Caribbean as a whole showed a rate of growth of 63% in the number of vacationers, while Cuba was trailing behind, according to Radio y Televisión Martí.
In January of this year, the statistics indicate there are 80% less tourists than there were in 2020. At this pace, Cuba will not reach the government’s projected goal of 2.5 million visitors for 2022.
At the end of 2021, Juan Carlos García Granda, Cuba’s minister of Tourism, stated that during the present year, the country expected to welcome no less than 2.5 million tourists, the same number of visitors registered for 2019.
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Spanish Company Will Rent Cars to Tourists in Cuba

MIAMI, United States. – The Spanish company Flexible Autos will provide car rental services to tourists in Cuba starting in February, according to the Spanish portal Agent Travel.
The company will offer rental services through Cuba On the Road, a branch that already has an office in Havana, at hotels in La Habana Vieja, Miramar and El Vedado.
According to the company director, Alessandro Patacciola, the cars that Flexible Autos will rent in Cuba are of the model SUV JEEP UAZ PATRIOT.
Rental reservations can be made online; the Cuban office will also provide road service assistance for any car that is damaged or breaks down.
“We are certain that this destination will fulfill a great historical demand and that, with Cuba On the Road, we have the peace of mind that comes from providing the best possible provider in our markets,” stated Patacciola.
The announcement came at the same time that the regime was announcing important investments in the Cayo Largo del Sur tourism pole
According to a note in the official daily Granma, the government intends to launch a capital restauration of the runway and roads, to improve the hotels as well as the activities beyond the hotels.
Cayo Largo del Sur, which when founded had only 59 hotel guest rooms and today has over 1,300, will feature a boulevard in the small town of the Key.
Among the sites being constructed are “the hotel proper, snack bars, pedestrian walkways, installations at Playa Sirena, the remodeling of the pub, modernization of desalination plant, reparation of hydraulic networks, and the construction of greenhouses,” explained to Caribbean News Digital the general manager of Empresa Turística Cayo Largo del Sur, Lázaro Esperanza Rodríguez Domínguez.
In recent years, 12,500 luxury guest rooms have been built in Cuba, and according to statistics published by Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym), during 2021 the island welcomed a total of 573,944 travelers, which represents a 67% drop when compared to 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the tourism sector in a crisis, with lower results than planned and luxury hotels virtually empty. However, the Cuban government continues on its frenzy to prioritize this sector. Juan Carlos García Granda, minister of Tourism, said a few days ago that Cuba hopes to welcome six million tourists by 2030, by which time 95,000 hotel guest rooms will have been finished.
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Meliá Names New Executive Director in Cuba

MADRID, Spain. – Meliá, the Spanish hotel chain, named Gonzalo Echevarría as its new executive director in Cuba.
According to information released this Monday in the specialized journal Hosteltur, Echevarría joined the hotel chain in 1988.
He has headed hotels such as Beach House, Sol Wave House and Meliá Palas Atenea of Palma; at the latter for the last eleven years.
According to the Hosteltur release, the hotel chain stated that “the team headed by Gabriel Cánaves (responsible for the division) is gaining strengths with the incorporation of Echevarría, who will bring to the table his extensive knowledge of hotel management and business marketing.”
When introducing the new executive, the hotel chain indicated that it was essential for the company “to strengthen its portfolio, to advance digitalization and to promote a safe and sustainable tourism.”
Meliá has had a presence in the island for two decades. It has 40 hotels in the following locations: Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Largo, Cayo Santa María, Holguín, Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Varadero, Camagüey, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
Last January 25, the European-Cuban Council and the group Cubans for Democracy sent a letter to the hotel chain wherein they criticized Meliá’s businesses in Cuba, and demanded the hotel chain end its relationship with the Cuban dictatorship, alleging that “in implementing its international expansion in the Caribbean, Meliá has opted to associate its brand and prestige to the disrepute of the Cuban government, a criminal Mafioso entity.”
It was learnt in December 2021 that Meliá and Iberostar could have been collaborating with the financing of the luxurious Fidel Castro Center, inaugurated in Havana amidst the serious economic and health crisis the country is enduring.
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On the Lookout for Tourists

Not in the least ambitious is the government’s aspiration to raise Cuba’s hotel capacity to 95,000 guest rooms and to exceed the 6 million tourist mark by 2030, when we take into consideration the unbridled construction of hotels and the arrival of 4.7 million foreign visitors in 2018.
That year, American tourists made the difference. But in 2019, former president Trump’s sanctions against Cuba went into effect and in March 2020 came the closing of borders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the reopening to international travelers on November 15, 2021, Cuban authorities expected to welcome 100,000 visitors by the end of the year, in addition to 203,806 in the month of January.  No official statistics have been published, but the surge of the coronavirus Omicron variant probably interfered with the attainment of said goal.
In a meeting with businessmen this January 16, shortly before their participation in the International Tourism Fair FITUR 2022, Cuba’s minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, presented them with new projects. The minister emphasized Cuba’s strengths (based on vaccination of the population with three Cuban-made vaccines) in order to attract Spanish participation, which today makes up 62% of joint ventures.
Cuba signed an agreement with Meliá to provide health services to clients who stay in their hotel facilities: massages, yoga therapy, relaxation and anti-stress programs. The minister emphasized the increase in the number of hotels with golf courses and marinas; the potentials of the tourism pole in Cienfuegos; and the great construction capacity in Varadero, Havana, Holguín and Matanzas, according to Prensa Latina.
However, it will be necessary to overcome many obstacles. Foreign investment, for one, will be necessary; they have been sought after for years, to no avail: Cuba invests while foreign businessmen execute contracts for management, training and publicity.
A tourist destination is not attractive if its domestic situation is tense, and the whole world questions the repression it visits upon its citizens when they demonstrate peacefully –as they did on July 11, 2021- and the long prison terms –as much as 25 years- they are sentenced to. In addition, in the island which is also penalized by the U.S., we live with the burden of shortages and shopping lines that are required to purchase even the most basic products.
Prices at tourist facilities should be made attractive, even if that reduces to a minimum the domestic profit. The quality of services and the efficiency of workers who are discouraged by the low wages -once compensated by tips from American tourists- will have to be raised.
The probability of change and opening toward Cuba, as well as the end of sanctions from the U.S. government that were launched by Trump and increased by Biden, are not in the horizon for the next few years. Millions of tourists will not return to Cuba.
Canada, Spain and other European countries are taking the lead in the tourism market, while the number of Russian tourists to the island multiplies. Moreover, there are agreements with agencies in Mexico and in the Caribbean region to issue travels packages. However, it will be difficult to overcome the competition from those very tourist paradises that benefitted from Fidel Castro’s ban on tourism after 1959, when Cuba received lots of visitors.
In Havana, the experts who projected the decline of the Omicron surge for February and March, spoke this January 18 about controlling the pandemic, stating that it would reach a plateau and decrease in the coming weeks. Such projections could restore the confidence of potential tourists.
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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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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From One Fair to the Next: The Cuban Regime Markets Its Tourism Product in Turkey

MIAMI, United States. –  Just weeks after participating in the International Tourism Fair in Madrid (FITUR), the Cuban regime is trying to market Cuba as tourist destination in Turkey.
According to Periódico Digital Centroamericano y del Caribe, island officials are participating in the 25th edition of the International Fair on Tourism and Travel in the Eastern Mediterranean EMITT 2022, that opened in the city of Istanbul on February 9.
The Cuban delegation to EMITT 2022 is made up of representatives of Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism, directors of hotel chains like Havanatur and Cubanacán, and Cuba’s ambassador to Turkey, Luis Amorós, among others.
The publication indicates that during the event, Cuban officials have presented “their tourism portfolio focusing on Cuba as destination, as well as its strengths vis a vis sun and beaches, nature and health destinations.”
In statements made to the state press agency Prensa Latina, Eddy Santos, general manager for marketing at MINTUR, stated that Cuba’s tourism would recover the ground it lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Tourism will undoubtedly stand out once more in the daily lives of people due to its resilience. Cuba is confident that it will become one of the favorite tourism destinations in the Caribbean, with new features and heightened quality of service,” Santos stated.
Periódico Digital Centroamericano y del Caribe indicates that the International Fair on Tourism and Travel in the Eastern Mediterranean “is one of the five most important tourism fairs in the world, where each year, approximately 45,000 professionals from the tourism sector participate, as well as tourists and frequent travelers who are always searching for new destinations to visit.”
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Cuba: In 2021, the arrival of visitors dropped 67% with respect to the previous year

MIAMI, United States. – The arrival of visitors to Cuba in 2021 dropped 67%, according to news from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym). Last year, the island welcomed only 573,944 travelers, 869,181 less than in 2020, when the country welcomed close to a million and a half visitors.
While Cuba welcomed 74,019 Russian tourists and 413,409 Canadians in 2020, in 2021 it welcomed only 146,151 visitors from Russia and 68,944 from Canada.
In general, Cuba welcomed 356,470 foreign travelers by the end of December 2021, which represents 32.8% of the number of visitors for the same period in 2020. “In other words, 729,450 less visitors than for the same period the year before,” explained ONEI in its most recent report.
In addition, only 52,804 Cubans who reside abroad travelled to Cuba last year, a considerable drop when compared to the number of travelers in 2020, which totaled 150,388.
This notwithstanding, “the Cuban community abroad” has become the third source of travelers to the island, followed by Spain (12,520), Germany (9,159), the U.S. (7,039), Italy (5,462), France (5,343), the Philippines (4,181) and Poland (3,622).
Last October, the Cuban government revealed its plans to welcome more than 100,000 tourists before the end of the year after reopening its borders on November 15, 2021, this according to information from Cuba’s minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda.
“We are counting on the arrival of more than 100,000 visitors between now and the end of the year. Year to date, less than 200,000 tourists have come to Cuba. It’s an important and optimistic challenge,” stated the minister to the accredited press corps.
In spite of the serious crisis that the Cuban people endure at present, characterized by food and medical shortages, García Granda also spoke about the island’s tourism sector increasing its hotel room capacity by an additional 4,000 guest rooms.
Likewise, and without sharing any updated information about the losses incurred during the two years of pandemic crisis, he assured his audience that “any small reduction in tourism activity” can have “a serious effect in a country like Cuba.”
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CDC Includes Cuba on Its List of Countries under a “No Travel” Advisory

MIAMI, United States. – The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) included Cuba today on its list of countries the CDC recommends that travelers not visit, due to the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
The list, which includes more than 130 destinations where traveling is not recommended and with the highest warning (Level 4), was updated with the addition of seven new countries on February 9. In addition to Cuba, the new countries are Armenia, Israel, Japan, Libya, Oman and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
CDC advises its citizens to “avoid” traveling to those areas, and if they must go, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before traveling.” CDC also advises: “Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you are still at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.”
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A travel destination is classified at Level 4 if more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are reported in the previous 28 days, which indicates a “very high” level of COVID-19 transmission in the community.
In recent weeks, the CDC has added more travel destinations to its highest warning level, a list that is updated weekly and that includes popular tourism poles such as Mexico, Canada, St. Barth, Aruba, Spain, Italy and France.
The CDC also warns about traveling on cruise ships, an activity it also classifies as Level 4.
Although the agency advises against going on a cruise, and stated that COVID-19 can spread “easily among people in closed spaces aboard the ships,” last month it made its guidance optional for cruise lines, which allowed its order of conditional sailing to expire.
However, countries classified by the CDC as Level 4 have already started to ease their border restrictions, like the Philippines, which plans to open up to international travelers this week.
Vaccinated travelers must show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test administered within 48 hours after their departure, as well as self-administered control of symptoms during the seven days following their arrival.
All travelers from the United States who travel internationally must take a COVID-19 test within one day of their scheduled return flight home.
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Regime Eliminates Compulsory Quarantine for Travelers from African Countries

MIAMI, United States. – Cubans authorities announced this Saturday they were lifting the compulsory quarantine required of travelers arriving from South Africa, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Malawi and Eswatini (Swaziland).
The measure, adopted in December 2021 due to the high transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant in those countries, was proposed and adopted during the last session of the provisional Task Force against the pandemic, which is headed by president Miguel Díaz-Canel.
The decision to lift the health restrictions for travelers from these African nations is the result of “the present global epidemiological situation and particularly in Cuba,” according to information shared by Cuba’s minister of Public Health, Ángel Portal Miranda.
“For travelers coming from those countries, we have also lifted the obligatory tests upon entering our ports and airports, and will follow those protocols applied to travelers from other countries,” according to the portal Presidencia de Cuba.
Until yesterday, travelers arriving from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Malawi and Eswatini had to comply with the compulsory quarantine. In addition, upon arriving in Cuba, they had to present their full vaccination record, and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, performed in their country of origin.
At the gathering this Saturday, Díaz-Canel acknowledged that, in spite of fewer contagions in the island, “very elderly people are dying with certain complications.”
“We have to avoid those risks among the elderly, and this will be accomplished through measures taken in the primary care system, where the family doctor must make regular house calls to determine any case that presents such complications,” Díaz-Canel added.
This Sunday, the Public Health ministry reported 898 COVID-19 cases for yesterday, when five patients died, all over 70 years of age.
Of the total contagions registered, 20 had a contagion source abroad.
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Cuban Government Says that Domestic Production Must Do Its Part to Attract Tourists

MADRID, Spain. – Local production must contribute more to the purpose of attracting foreign tourists to Cuba, and to obtaining greater earnings in hard currency, Cuba’s minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, stated.
According to him, this would also improve the dynamics of the national economy, as quoted in the official daily Granma.
In this regard, he indicated that tourism needs a new approach vis a vis guaranteeing resources.
As to the trading relationships that exist in Cuba between hotel facilities and production and services entities, both from state and private sectors, he stated that Cuba could take advantage of “the possibilities of producing its own food and other products”, even if “importing some items is still required.”
About tourism itself, he stated that “paying immediate attention to client complaints and providing solutions should be the main concern of head management at the hotels.”
García Granda also remarked on the importance of marketing strategies aimed at international tourism.
“We must increase training and rely on science and innovation in order to digitalize tourism destinations, to make them ‘intelligent’, and to take advantage of all the benefits this implies,” he added.
The minister’s statements come at a time when the Cuban population is heavily affected by shortages of basic products, domestic as well as imported goods.
Recently, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, minister of Domestic Commerce (MINCIN), stated that shortages will continue through February regarding basic products included in the family ration basket, among them cigarettes, coffee, sugar, powdered milk and personal and cleaning products.
According to Díaz Velázquez, this situation is due to a delay in the arrival of imported raw materials as well as interruptions in production flow.
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The López-Calleja Tower: At First There Was One, Now There Are Two

HAVANA, Cuba. – The so-called K Tower, which aimed to house the tallest hotel in Cuba and that people have come to call the “López-Calleja Tower” (in reference to one of Cuba’s most powerful military-businessmen) will now become a smaller building with fewer floors than previously announced.
According to information shared with CubaNet by sources linked to Grupo de Administración Empresarial de las Fuerzas Armadas (the Armed Forces Business Management Group, GAESA, by its Spanish acronym), which owns, has invested and is executor of the building under construction, the finished project could have two independent blocks of guest rooms instead of only one as initially planned and as was told by the official press.
Far from the 42 floors that would rise to 154 meters above the ground, the building, which could be inaugurated at the end of this year or beginning of 2023, will end up being a 70 meters-high construction with two guest room blocks each rising 20 floors.
“The decision not to build the 42-story tower and to build two, 20-story twin towers instead, would meet the zoning requirements established for El Vedado,” according to a female officer of Gaviota S.A. who spoke to us on condition of anonymity. Gaviota S.A. is the military enterprise that will run the hotel.
“It would solve the problems we are facing right now due to a shortage of the technical equipment required for such a construction. In the end, common sense has prevailed, as have the protests from the community of architects who labeled the building ‘an aberration’, and also because of the costs involved in maintaining an enormous tower in the context of the economic crisis that Cuba is facing,” stated the officer.
Las torres de GAESA vistas desde el Coppelia (Foto: CubaNet)
Another officer associated with the project, but with Almest, the construction company principally responsible for erecting the edifice, confirmed to CubaNet that, in spite of the decision made by Grupo para el Desarrollo Integral de la Capital (Capital City Comprehensive Development Group, GDIC by its Spanish acronym), the main decision-maker in such affairs, and against the architectural guidelines of the zone, GAESA continues to insist in the construction of the skyscraper. Many experts consider the tower not only an unnecessary waste of resources but also “an intrusion” on Havana’s urban landscape.
“It is not the first time that the Cuban government vetoes this project. This makes it the fourth time we have had to turn back everything until finally, in 2018, we obtained the permit (…). There has been a lot of pressure from every direction even from Eusebio Leal who was firmly opposed to the tower on account of the Protected Zone status that El Vedado enjoys. Signatures were collected among architects and now Physical Panning is forcing us to abide by the urban development guidelines. In addition, the Meliá Spanish hotel chain has complained that it does not another hotel that will be higher than the Havana Libre or that will block its view and pose competition. That’s why they are invoking the laws (…). What is irrevocable is the decision that the 42-floor tower is not going up. At least not in that location on 23rd Street. What’s happening is that they are looking for other locations far from La Rampa boulevard and the Historic Quarter and more to the west of the city. For now, the two smaller towers will have to do,” stated the Almest officer.
The law exists, but nobody abides by it (least of all, the military)
In spite of its highly deteriorated condition, El Vedado continues to be a neighborhood with great heritage values. Its proximity to the ocean and its central location have kept it a preferred place for investments, especially in hotel investments. Therein lies the reason why its values could be endangered in spite of the fact that there are regulatory documents that control the occupation of square blocks, the intensity of usage, the height of buildings and above all, its image.
Ordinances -which exist since the end of the 19th century- are not obeyed even when El Vedado is a Protected Zone, as stipulated in Resolution 154 of 1999, issued by the ministry of Culture’s National Commission on Monuments. That document insists on keeping the original parceling of El Vedado as “one of the components that is subject to maximum preservation, conservation and development of public spaces, the recovery and enabling of the area’s central location and the preservation of its residential and community-life purpose” (Resolution 154, El Vedado’s Historic and Cultural Zones, Ministry of Culture, March 12, 1999).
“Regulations exist, but nobody abodes by them, least of all the military, who do whatever the hell they want,” stated Reynaldo Montiel, an architect and former professor at the Polytechnic Higher Education Institute “Jose Antonio Echeverría” (ISPJAE) in Havana, and signatory of several independent petitions to cancel the K Tower project.
Las dos Torres K, vistas desde la calle 23 (Foto: CubaNet)
“There are the Plaza de la Revolución municipality’s Urban Regulations, published in 1999 by the Physical Planning Department and by GDIC in 1998 (José Manuel Fernández Núñez, “Regulaciones urbanísticas de la Ciudad de La Habana,” GDIC, Havana, 1998), but those are documents and literature that few people know they exist and nobody consults, not even in the Faculty of Architecture or the Faculty of Law. Students egress from the university thinking that, when it comes to urban development and architecture, anyone with power can do what he or she wants (…). El Vedado has very clear regulations about what can and cannot be built, and that hotel was rejected by several commissions as early as 2016. First, their micro-location was denied, not because of what is popularly believed about it being higher than the Habana Libre; it was denied because there is a regulation that forbids the construction of buildings higher than 25 floors or more than 77 meters high, that was the real reason. To try to better their argument, they even referred to the Habana Libre itself and the Focsa building, with no regard for the fact that these buildings violated the urbanistic landscape, that they were themselves intrusions imposed in violation of those norms (…). A giant concrete-and-glass screen in that area of La Rampa boulevard was ridiculous, not only because of its visual impact but also because that zone’s electrical and hydraulic networks are overused and were not designed for buildings of such magnitude. They can’t fix the serious problems at the Habana Libre or the Focsa building, and they are going to create another one? We are talking about almost 600 guest rooms that, if 70% occupied, will have a negative impact in every possible way, including transportation and roads. Even if not occupied, due to maintenance requirements, it will represent an enormous waste of resources. Whoever came up with this idea must have been crazy,” stated the professor.
According to testimony given by several members of the commission that rejected the K Tower project between 2016 and 2018 (the year it was finally approved, against the decision of the experts), the meetings held to analyze the viability of this construction were a mere formality to get immediate approval hopping there would be no opposition.
“There was a little bit of everything: pressure, blackmail, intense corruption, but surprisingly, we who opposed the project were a greater number than those who caved in,” according to a prominent architect who spoke to us on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “The project was rejected not so much because of its implicit violation of the ordinances, but because it was an evident monstrosity, totally out of context, difficult to fit in with its surroundings. Between 2016 and 2018, I received all kinds of proposals aimed at my giving approval to the project and convincing the other architects to do the same. I said no every time. That almost cost me the cancellation of two projects I was working for Gaviota. But I made such a racket that the threat didn’t go beyond that. That is why when I saw that the project was approved in spite of the rejection of the commission, I was not surprised. They were going to do it no matter what. We were a mere formality,” stated our expert source (the architect), further adding this statement about the existing urban regulations:
“The laws we have encourage the disorder. Few of them are accessible, the rest are all over the place, in random offices, and nobody consults them. Nobody knows them. Each individual interprets them to fit his or her needs.”
Architect Enrique Lanza pointed out the inherent weaknesses of the existing urbanistic regulations which he felt were responsible for the constant violations, in an article titled “La grande churrete de La Habana: Taller para las regulaciones urbanísticas de El Vedado” (“Regulaciones urbanísticas. Ciudad de La Habana. El Vedado”. Authors’ collective coordinated by the Provincial Office of Physical Planning of the City of Havana (DPPF-CH) and the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana, 2007).
According to Lanza, “occasionally, they are difficult to understand due to the language used and also their structure; they are organized somewhat irrationally; they proscribe too much and prescribe too little, that is, they mention what is forbidden instead of suggesting how to do things well.”
He also indicates that they lack the graphic information necessary to make the text easier to understand; he says they are based on a functional and not morphological zoning which makes it difficult to regulate themes about its urban and architectural image; and more importantly, they include legal loopholes that lend themselves to foul play, or worse: to schemes during the process of micro-location established by the existing investment regulations in Cuba.
Its elevation is reduced, but the investment costs rise
Although it will not become the skyscraper that GAESA intended, “K Towers” –in the plural- will still feature a similar number of guest rooms (564) and will have more service and retail areas and restaurants. A new swimming pool might be added to the project.
La torre única original de 42 pisos ha tenido el rechazo casi total de la comunidad de arquitectos de Cuba. Vista de las dos torres actuales (Foto: CubaNet)
“The new project will have an infinity pool in one of the towers; the towers will also connect with each other on the last floor,” according to another Gaviota S.A. source who spoke to us on condition of anonymity. “At this time, both towers are being built, and the finishes have been completed for the first and second floors of each tower, at a cost of US$3,000 per square meter for standard guest rooms and as much as US$5,000 per square meter for luxury rooms which make up more than half of the 564 guest rooms (…). With respect to the original project, there has been an increase in building costs because the original calculations were US$2,000 (per square meter) for standard rooms and a lesser number of luxury guest rooms at US$4,000 (per square meter). This doesn’t take into account furniture and fixture costs, nor the cost for the new service areas which is calculated as part of guest room costs in the budget (…). All these changes will probably delay the inauguration of the project until the second half of 2023,” added our source, who stated that the cost per square meter of guest rooms, in this hotel alone, is above the median of all hotel investments in the island, and even in the Caribbean basin, for four and five-star hotels. This detail has sparked the attention of investors and has been described as a negative factor in the various reports. However, this doesn’t seem to worry anyone at the helm of GAESA.
“Construction cost of a hotel guest room in Cuba normally fluctuates between US$1,000 to 1,500 per square meter, before furniture and fixtures; it could be higher for a four or five-star hotel. But in the case of “K Towers”, the costs are outrageous, never before seen in Cuba (…). It has to do with the present world crisis, everything is more expensive, but still, this is too much, and still, that has not been reason enough to put a stop to this construction and wait until better times. That project knows no limits. If one has to purchase a square meter of marble in Italy, someone goes and pays whatever the asking price, and brings it here,” were our source’s closing words.
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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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TUI Fly Belgium Airlines Will Reinstate Flights to Cuba Starting December 24

MIAMI, United States. – TUI Fly Belgium Airlines will reinstate its flights to Cuba on December 24, according to information released by the State press agency Prensa Latina.
The news was confirmed after a meeting held in Brussels between Maarten Cooreman, chief of Aviation Development, Flights Planning and Public Relations for the airline; Ciro Monné, Trade and Economic Advisor to the Cuban regime in Belgium; and Yoandry Oduardo, the Cuban consul in that country.
Prensa Latina’s report indicates that flights on TUI Fly Belgium to Havana will constitute a stop that the airline will incorporate to its Cancun (Mexico) itinerary.
“TUI Fly Belgium’s representative explained that these regular flights will have Cancun, Mexico as their final destination on a weekly basis, but regarding Havana, the airline aims to increase the frequency to twice per week starting April 2022,” according to Prensa Latina.
TUI Fly Belgium clients will be able to purchase tickets in two ways: making a direct purchase, and purchasing a tourism package that will also include hotel reservation and transfer.
The officials explained that the sale of airline tickets would correspond to the demand.
According to Prensa Latina, TUI Fly Belgium “had already tried to reinstate its flights to Cuba one month ago, in the context of implementing the Belgium BTExpo-2021 salon for tourism professionals.”
Founded in 2003 as TUI Airlines Belgium (or jetairfly), TUI Fly Belgium is an airline company headquartered in Ostende, Belgium, whose hub is located at Brussels-Zaventem Airport.
In addition to being part of one of the largest tourism fleets in Europe, TUI Fly Belgium and five other airlines make up the TUI Airlines virtual alliance, a dependence of TUI AG, the largest tourism group in the world.
Recibe la información de CubaNet en tu celular a través de WhatsApp. Envíanos un mensaje con la palabra “CUBA” al teléfono +1 (786) 316-2072, también puedes suscribirte a nuestro boletín electrónico dando click aquí.

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