In the Absence of Tourists, Havana’s Deauville Hotel Sells ‘Combos’ for 5,000 Pesos

About thirty people gathered this Wednesday at the doors of the Deauville hotel in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 February 2022– About thirty people are crowding at the doors of the Deauville hotel in Havana this Wednesday, and they are not tourists nor do they carry suitcases. Loaded with boxes and crates full of empty beer bottles, they line up to buy food and drink combos for 5,000 pesos each.

Two packages of sweet cookies, two bottles of wine, a kilogram of cheese, one of ham, a package of coffee, a tub of ice cream and a case of beer are part of the lots put up for sale by the establishment, closed since the covid-19 pandemic reached the Island in March 2020.

“They cannot be bought separately, but must be bought together,” warned one of the clerks, who indicated that if the customers did not bring empty bottles for the beers, they would not sell them the combo either. They did sell some bottles of Havana Club rum separately.

“People have such a need to resell and they are so eager to buy anything, that they mark their places in line like crazy and then go out terrified to look for empty bottles,” a neighbor tells this newspaper, stunned by the crowd and the haste.

A passer-by approaches and hesitates to stay in line, because the transaction is not clear. “This lends itself to a deception, because the prices are not separated. Who tells me what they are charging for in those 5,000 pesos?” he complains.

The Deauville, a few meters from the Malecón wall, is located in the municipality of Centro Habana and in one of the poorest neighborhoods in that area. Outside the tourist perimeter of the historic center and also distant from El Vedado, the hotel stands out in an environment of deteriorated houses, faded facades and buildings on the verge of collapse.

“They cannot be purchased separately, but must be bought together,” warned one of the shop assistants. (14ymedio)

The surrounding area was the site of several of the most intense images of protests during the Maleconazo of August 5, 1994, a popular revolt that gave rise to the so-called “rafter crisis.”

But the establishment has also been a source of income for the neighborhood’s residents, who, when the hotel is at its busiest, provide private taxi services, tour guides, informal tobacco sales and even prostitutes to guests.

Like the entire sector, this state-owned hotel is not going through its best period. Tourism in Cuba has collapsed in the two years of the pandemic, going from 4.2 million travelers in 2019 to just half a million in 2021. The figures are dramatic when compared to those of other countries is the Caribbean, which is the high season at the moment. While the Dominican Republic recovered the 73% of visitors it had before the pandemic, Cuba only had a small fraction of the travelers in 2019.

This Wednesday’s sale is one of the “advantages” of living a few meters from the premises, since for months merchandise of this type has barely appeared in stores that will accept payment in Cuban pesos.


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