A Cuban Deputy Regrets That All Hotel Stores Accept Payment Only in Hard Currency

Hotel Grand Aston Havana, built in 2022 by Gaesa on the Malecón. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2022 — Cuba’s Minister of Tourism is sticking to his forecast and maintains once again that the target of 2.5 million foreign travelers will be met this year. Although in the first six months of the year, the island received only 682,297, the Cuban authorities are determined that geometric progression cannot be applied and that, since growth has been exponential in recent months, the goal will be achieved.

“For the July-October period, 1,105,000 visitors are expected to arrive,” said Juan Carlos García Granda, head of the branch, on Wednesday at the meeting of the Commission for Attention to Services, where parliamentarians analyze the different sectors as a preliminary step to the ninth ordinary session of the National Assembly of People’s Power.

Despite optimism, the meeting brought to light some problems in the tourism sector, on which the Cuban Government has placed all its hope for the future.

“The most important problems are road signs, currency exchange and car rental. In some places there was dissatisfaction with hygiene in the municipalities and with the infrastructure of roads, buildings and cities,” said García Granda, who also admitted that transport and workers’ uniforms are scarce.

The worst thing, however, is the lack of variety in food and drink, something that occurs every day in the daily life of citizens but that, in the case of tourism, should be on the fast track by extending contracts that would “favor the acquisition of resources.”

In the middle of the session, a deputy, José Castañeda, drew attention to the serious disadvantage that in hotels all stores accept only freely convertible currency (MLC), “which is a problem with the national market.”

García Granda placed the rooms on the island at 78,862, with Havana, Matanzas and Villa Clara in the lead. The minister said that travelers value the destination Cuba despite all the inconveniences, suggesting that the investment seems appropriate to him, but contrary to what it may seem, it is still little.

“In this year, 1,049 rooms have been recovered out of the 5,167 planned until December,” added the official, who estimated the number of rooms that are not in order at 13.2%, even though during the wide stoppage of the pandemic an investment plan was implemented to update the situation.

The perception of Cubans, even among those closest to the ruling party, theorized by different economists, is that the Cuban authorities are investing wildly in hotel facilities and tourism while the country falls apart. However, García Granda categorically said at Wednesday’s meeting that the pace is proportional since, even, “the growth of tourists has always been higher than that of rooms since the 1990s.”

When calculating, the minister chose 2019 compared to 1990, and stated that the growth of visitors was 9.1%, while that of rooms was 4.9%. In 2022, the Cuban economist Pedro Monreal argued that even if the long-awaited 2.5 million international visitors were reached, there would be a little more than half of Cuba’s hotel rooms left over. “69 tourists rotating per room in 2018 compared to 32 in 2022. It would seem rational to adopt a ’pause’ in hotel investment. There are other priorities,” he said.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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