Cuba Continues to Build Hotels with Money of Unknown Origin and for Non-Existent Tourists

Hotel Grand Aston La Habana, recently built by Gaesa on the Malecón. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 May 2022 — More than 8,930 rooms of the almost 78,000 that Cuba has will remain empty in 2022. The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, reports that some 1,473 million dollars were invested in these rooms, without revealing the origin of this investment.

Monreal suggests adopting “a pause” in hotel investments and targeting the island’s priorities. “Receiving 2.5 million international visitors in 2022, ’would leave a surplus’ of more than half of Cuba’s hotel rooms,” says the economist on his Twitter account. He calculates that only 32 tourists will rotate per room in 2022, compared to 69 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the economist also points out, investment in agricultural activities and in the sugar industry plummeted, with a fall of 50.8% in the first, and 80% in the second, “with respect to the relative weight they had in the total investment the previous year.”

It was the minister of the branch, Juan Carlos García Granda, last week at the inauguration of the FitCuba International Tourism Fair, who gave the exact number of tourist rooms that the Island has: 77,809, in a total of 240 hotels. Of these, he boasted, 59,000 have a Wi-Fi connection.

These numbers contrast with the dire state of the sector, which has not raised its head since the appearance of covid-19. Although the Cuban government foresees a recovery and the arrival of some 2.5 million travelers, the truth is that in the first quarter of this year only some 313,908 vacationers arrived on the island, a tiny number when compared to the same quarter last year, the year’s best, before the pandemic.

In all of last year, the Island received a total of 573,944 international travelers, 60% less than in all of 2020. A few days ago, the Government presented the more than 450,000 tourists received until April as a success, since it is seven times more than the number that arrived last year in the same period, but the comparison is misleading, since with respect to 2019 the difference is more than one million.

Due to the invasion in Ukraine, Cuba has also lost the Russian tourist market, which had grown, while the arrival of Canadians, who were the main source of travelers before the pandemic, followed by Americans, collapsed. These last two nationalities continue to lead arrivals on the Island, but in much smaller numbers than in previous years.

With this evidence on the table, last week the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, rectified the too optimistic forecasts for 2022 of his own colleague in charge of tourism, García Granda, and stated that, in reality, the recovery will have to wait until 2023.

Added to the above is the explosion at the Saratoga Hotel on May 6 in Havana, which caused the death of at least 46 people and has perhaps irreparably damaged the facilities that were about to reopen to receive tourists after a long closure due to the pandemic.

In this unfavorable context, many wonder why the Government continues to invest enormous sums in a sector with poor short-term prospects. “New hotel investment is not justified in a context of food insecurity,” writes Monreal. “The reasonable thing would be to modify the current pattern of investment to reassign to the agricultural sector (and other activities as well) what today is dedicated to building hotels that are going to operate with a low occupancy rate,” adds the economist.

The origin of the funds dedicated to the construction of hotels remains a mystery since the Government has not announced any large-scale foreign investment in this sector controlled by the military-controlled Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA (Gaesa).


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