14ymedio, Havana, 2 September 2022 — The Cuban Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, foresees more “business opportunities” on the Island with the luxury hotel group Kempinski. In a meeting held on Thursday in Havana with Bernold Schroeder, president of the Board of Directors of the company, Marrero negotiated the expansion of the group in Cuba.
Qualified by Marrero as a “high standard” German company, Kempinski already has two establishments in the Cuban capital: the Gran Hotel Manzana, inaugurated in 2017 with five-stars plus, and the Gran Hotel Bristol, which opened its doors in 2020.
Despite the optimistic tone of the meeting, a recent 14ymedio tour of the hotel cartography of Havana revealed that the Manzana hotel was under repair, with excavators and without customers, while the Bristol, after a brief opening, was closed to the public.
Bernold Schroeder, the manager who met Marrero, has been part of Kempinski since 2017 and has been running the company since 2020. According to the company’s official website, Schroeder boosted the growth of the group in Asia and Europe, which earned him the promotion to his present position, and has been responsible, to a large extent, for the rapprochement with Cuba.
In 2019, the Gran Manzana Kempinski hotel was included by Donald Trump in the List of Restricted Cuban Entities, an inventory of companies that could be sued by the U.S. justice system for profiting from properties expropriated after the 1959 Revolution, although several companies registered in the European Union have legal protections against this mechanism.
All these companies were managed or directed by Gaesa, the administration group of the Armed Forces, then led by the recently deceased General Luis Alberto Rodríguez-López Calleja.
In the midst of the resounding crisis that Cuba is going through, the Cuban government’s link with a high-caliber hotel company such as Kempinski arouses several controversies. For example, why is government management concentrating on unnecessary projects, when there is a moderate number of tourists entering Cuba, in addition to the hotels being excessively expensive.
Marrero, who served from 2004 to 2019 as Minister of Tourism and was part of the administrative apparatus of Gaesa, personally manages the deal with large companies, while the owner of that portfolio, Juan Carlos García Granda, occupies a secondary place in these businesses.
Reproducing topics and tropical clichés, Kempinski announces Havana as a “city stopped in time, slow,” where people “take their time.” The Cuban government has not offered additional information about the projects that the German company intends to carry out or where they will be located.
The Kempinski group was founded in 1897 and today manages 79 five-star establishments in about thirty countries. On the island, in addition to the Manzana and Bristol hotels, with 246 and 162 luxury rooms, respectively, the company opened the Cayo Guillermo Resort Kempinski, located in the north of the province of Ciego de Ávila, in 2019.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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