Capitalist Investments in Cuba

March 13, 2017 |

Photo feature: Elio Delgado Valdes

 

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s promising future in tourism can already be seen, the growing avalanche of foreign visitors to Havana is invading its public spaces. Curiosity for the country has meant that tourism has also expanded to more remote places where visitors search for the Cuban people’s daily reality.

Hotel building and repair work in the capital has rapidly increased in recent years, the number of foreign capital investments is comprehensive. The French construction company Bouygues and its counterparty the Cuban real estate agency, Almest (investment company) supported by the Armed Forces (FAR) construction company and the Restaura Company, which belongs to the Havana City Historian’s Office, have come together to take on renovation works. The use of labor from India completes the landscape where the modernization of the old city stands out.

The building frenzy in Cuba, which began with the major restoration of the entire block building known as the Manzana de Gomez and its transformation into the 5-Star Hotel Manzana will be managed by the Gaviota Tourism Group Ltd. (Cuban military), created in 1989, and the German Kempinski Group, which has its corporate headquarters in Switzerland.

The soon to be completed project will have an accommodation capacity of 246 rooms, and will be the most expensive on the island.

Remodeling works are also underway at several other hotels, including the Packard with an accommodation capacity of 300 rooms, the Sofitel SO hotel on the strategic corner of Prado and Malecon Streets, facing the sea, will have 208 rooms, and the Regis Hotel and Gran Hotel, have already begun to be built too.

 

“The 100 Room Hotel” as the Gran Hotel was better known, located on the corner where Teniente Rey, Zulueta and Monserrate Streets come together, has been surrounded by a wall of blocks protecting the original facade, the only remains of the destroyed structure, which was kept upright by scaffolding covered in vegetation. The fleeting work of Cuban graffiti artists used to stand out on the wall of concrete blocks. Today, the surroundings have changed, the old scaffolding has been replaced by new ones which give comfort and security to its workers, a fence covers up passerby’s’ curiosity.

The tourism boom, in part sparked by the Obama administration making it easier for US citizens to visit the island, could be the answer to some of the country’s economic problems, as long as there is an opening in the market where the Cuban people can find work with decent pay.

The United Nations designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The basic principles of such sustainability in the tourism sector should consider proper use of natural resources, socio-cultural diversity and business strategies.

A record total of 4.2 million tourists are expected to visit Cuba this year. To meet the lodging needs, the Ministry of Tourism has created an alliance with the private sector, with 17,000 rental homes across the island ready to receive foreign visitors, according to government sources.

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  • Moses Patterson

    A little perspective: while Cuba expects to top 4 million tourist visits in 2017, the Cancun/Riviera Maya corridor in nearby Mexico (150 miles away) should receive more than 15 million tourists. Cuban tourism hopes to generate $4 billion for the Cuban military, while Mexican tourism should exceed $19 billion. Tourists in Mexico will spend more money per tourist than tourists in Cuba. Much of this is owed to the strength of the US dollar against the Mexican peso when compared to prices in Cuba pegged to the US dollar. Cuba is relatively expensive when compared to other Caribbean destinations. One other tidbit: Tourism in Mexico generates a higher rate of repeat customers. Customer satisfaction for Cuban tourism is relatively low. Many tourists complain of shortages and other inconveniences as well as fewer child-friendly activities. Nonetheless, Cuban tourism is a work in progress. A very long way from Disneyworld/Orlando, Florida levels but improving.

    • Trish Hyatt

      Well, give me Cuba any day. How much I wonder will local residents benefit from any of this development. Very little.
      Stay in a casa, a much better experience. See the rest of the country, not just Havana, which is also charming.
      I am not excited about the inevitable developments.
      ?Cuba

      • Moses Patterson

        That’s typical Yuma speak. You would hate to see Cuba modernize. You, of course, likely enjoy the comfortable and convenient lifestyle that you are able to live wherever you are from. I am assuming that you are not living in a third world country worse off than Cuba. You obviously would hate to see Cubans enjoy fully-stocked supermarkets and streets without potholes and open sewage. It sounds like you prefer to keep Cuba a ‘human zoo’ so your vacations there are sufficiently rustic to soothe some safari-zen thing you have going on. For my part, I want to see Cubans enjoy the same comfortable life that I have here in San Francisco. I realize that this will likely cost Cuba what you call it’s “charm”.But my in-laws deserve to live well too.

        • The War At Home

          A quick question. Do you actually think Cubans will be able to afford a stay in those expensive hotels? I don’t think anyone is against filling in potholes, improving plumbing, or keeping grocery stores fully stocked.

          • Moses Patterson

            When was the last time you visited Varadero? CUBANS are all over the place staying and playing in the hotels there.

    • The War At Home

      The problem with Mexico is that the locals can’t seem to stop themselves from shooting up the place. Accommodations around Cancun are about the same price as in Cuba, alcohol is much cheaper in Cuba, the prostitutes are cheaper, and Cuba is safe. I’m comparing prices for tourist areas of course. The only thing Mexico does better then Cuba as a tourist destination is fishing, and drugs if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not).

      • Moses Patterson

        Mexican 5-star hotels are better than Cuba’s 5-star hotels. The food is MUCH better. The excursions are family-friendly and far more reliable. So the fact that hotel prices in Cuba dare to be comparable to Cancun does not speak well for Cuba. But yes, there are those drug cartels.

  • N.J. Marti

    The boom is already peaking as the reality of $300 to $650 a night hotel rooms, poor Wi-Fi, costly cabs, black outs and shortages hits visiters. It is a high price, for low fare amenities. Lot’s of history in a rustic experience. The novelty will weather quickly with few return visitors. It’s a one time use product.

    .

    • emagicmtman

      What are you talking about, “N.J. Marti”? Last year I stayed at a lovely casa a couple of blocks from the Inglaterra for all of $25/noc. (and out in the provinces, they generally run $15 to $20/noc.) Have not endured a black-out since the early 2000’s (and have travelled widely in Cuba, since), and “almendrones” cost but 40 cents from the the Parque de Fraternized out to the Frank Pais Hospital in La Lisa, then another 40 cents from there to San Agustin (or I could take a coco-taxi, or a cheap Lada taxi or, in a pinch, a Metro-Bus for less than a nickel). Sure, if I wanted to stay at a 5-star, Habana is expensive, but casas and three (and sometimes two) stars are more my style. In Sancti Spiritus I stayed at a wonderful three star complex (Villa Rancho Hatuey) for all of $36/noc, breakfast included. This place had extensively landscaped grounds, a pool, a nightclub, a restaurant and bar, etc. etc. It was really a resort. On another visit there I stayed at an atmospheric downtown hotel, the Rijo, for $66/noc. Up here such a place would run $200+/noc, but not in Sancti Spiritus, or any other provincial city in Cuba. Who cares about wi-fi?! I want to be out of touch when I go to Cuba (and when I do need to make contact, I can always go to the nearest ETECSA center and pay my $6/hr to send/receive gmails to folks back home. Cuba is only expensive to the uninitiated and the newbies.

  • Ronin

    Ok, so the prices are getting higher at the 5 star hotels, that is the nature of supply and demand, SO WHAT. If you are the kind of tourist whom prefers to stay at these types of hotels, then good on you, pay the higher price and enjoy. However, there are LOTS of other “casa particular” or hostels that provide pretty good locations to stay at.

    Yes, there are a few that have problems that you will notice after the first night, i.e. the rooster sounding off at sunrise, or the loud construction crew starting their daily work early in the morning right next to your bedroom window, but if you prefer the comforts of Paris, London, then go there otherwise quit complaining and enjoy Cuba the way it is.

    Cuba is as good as you want it to be, if it were as good as some other comfortable tourist destinations in the world, then it wouldn’t be the Cuba that most people find as a great country to visit.

    Cuba wil most likely continue to improve little by little as time goes by, and if that’s not good enough for any tourist, then vacation elsewhere, no one is forcing us to go there. :)

    • Wendy McIlroy

      I spend a lot of time in downtown Havana in Casas Particulares and couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Gerard Matthews

    How many Cuban Nationals are being employed and reaping the financial benefits from all this construction work?