14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 12 April 2022 — Two Floriditas and zero tourists. Both the emblematic bar in Havana and its copy in the Varadero resort are without customers to keep company with the bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway leaning on the bar of his favorite place. In front of the first there was only one convertible and two cocotaxis this Monday, where before there were dozens of buses and a hornet’s nest of Cubans hunting tourists.
Outside the premises the sun and the absence of people competed, while the rest of the businesses in the area remained empty or closed. The place, famous for its daiquirís, tries to return to its old glory years, with little success.
In the historic center of the capital this morning it was also possible to walk several blocks without encountering tourists along the way. Some private businesses in the Plaza Vieja remained with their tables empty under the sun, their employees promoted the premises, but only Cubans passed by along with some fellow countrymen who, due to their dress and physical appearance, one might confuse with those looking for business opportunities on the street.
“I’m Cuban, you’re not going to earn much today with me,” a man told a promoter who showed him a restaurant menu offering “good prices… If I sit here eating with the money to bring food home, my wife kills me.”
Cuba, which reopened its borders in the middle of November after the closure forced by the pandemic, prioritizes the tourism sector. This is its second largest item of gross domestic product (GDP) and its third largest source of foreign currency, behind the sale of medical services and remittances.
The state tourism sector expects to end this year with 84,906 rooms. And despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus, the lack of tourists and the shortage of supplies for construction throughout the country, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA (Gaesa), a military conglomerate, has not stopped its huge projects.
One of them, being built at 25 and K in El Vedado, is a luxury hotel that is projected as “the tallest of its kind in Havana,” aiming to reach 42 floors and 500 feet high.
The Government, which has not modified its plans due to the impact of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia, continues to aspire to the 2.5 million tourists it had planned for 2022, just over half of the number that arrived in 2019. Since then tourism has been unable to recover, even relatively speaking. The Dominican Republic, which reopened just a month before Cuba, has already returned to even slightly higher numbers than it had before covid-19.
The agony is such that Varadero experiences a previously inexplicable emptiness. Foreigners do not arrive, Cubans have no money and establishments are not supplied.
This explains why even the wasteland around the Floridita in Havana is small compared to the desert of clients that can be seen in its twin in Varadero, the peninsula that until recently monopolized a good part of the island’s visitors and lately barely survived with the arrival of Russian tourists, who are now no longer coming because of the war in Ukraine.
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