Despite buildings collapsing on top of residents, the Castro dictatorship continues diverting scarce funds to build new hotels for foreign tourists that for now remain largely empty.
Cuba: New Hotels Are Phantom Hotels
In spite of the construction frenzy in the tourism sector and the regime’s desire to attract international visitors, hotel occupancy in the island is nil.
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.
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