Cubans And Foreigners Competing For Hotel Rooms / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)
It is estimated that domestic tourism will grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 June 2016 — With the arrival of summer on Monday, Cubans are obsessed with getting an “all-inclusive” package tour to enjoy the school holidays. However, domestic demand is affected by the simultaneous growth of foreign tourism — up 11.9% since January — and the insufficient number of hotel rooms.

Since 2008, when Cubans were granted the previously denied permission to book rooms in hotels, domestic tourism has seen a sharp increase and is estimated to grow by 13.8% this year compared to 2015. The island currently has about 61,200 rooms in about 300 hotels. The Ministry of Tourism plans to add some 3,790 new rooms and repair 5,677 others, by December.

The tension between the capacity dedicated to international tourism and those marketed to Cubans is considered the main cause of rising prices in options for Cubans living on the island, especially the all-inclusive packages.

“We have been saving for a year and in the end had to borrow money because the prices have gone up,” complained one customer in the Cubatur offices at the Habana Libre hotel. “They’ve told us that all the facilities on the northern keys are reserved and there is no room,” said the buyer.

A tour of several agencies in Havana confirmed that the prices of many tourist packages have risen between 8% and 15% in one year. The Islazul agency, one of the busiest among nationals due to its economic rates, also increased some prices, especially those of multi-room houses on the beach.

“It’s nothing new, every summer prices go up as demand increases,” an employee of the chain justified by phone from her office in Cienfuegos. She said that there has not been a significant increases in prices, but that now there is less availability and the cheaper deals sell out early.

The employee said that “the most sought after options by domestic clients are accommodations along the coasts and keys, although there is also high demand for those that include a nature trail or historic points of interest.”

Sources in the tourism sector warned this newspaper that as of the 1st of July package deals in Cuba will be even more expensive, with costs increasing up to 50% in some cases.

The deficit in rooms, which has become more acute since the beginning of this year, benefits private facilities in tourist areas, as is the case with the Yeli Boom guesthouse at Guanabo beach to the east of Havana. With a swimming pool and two minutes from the sea, the place initially focused on foreign tourists, but has gradually included domestic clients.

“I reserved a place for 70 Cuban convertible pesos [about the same in dollars] a night, because my son is coming from Barcelona to spend some days with the family and I couldn’t’ find another place that is that close to the sea and decent,” commented Maria Josefa, a retired teacher. She ruled out houses at Playas del Este that are state-managed because “they have very bad conditions, when the sink isn’t broken the mattress is bad.”

“My only regret is that in these private homes it’s not all-inclusive, because it’s really convenient not to have deal with the food,” added the lady. “It’s a matter of time before these places that already have such good conditions get a handle on this, when they allow you an open bar.”