The Spanish Melia Opens a Luxury Hotel in the Building of the Extinct Petroleum Union in Havana

The hotel, one block from the Plaza de la Catedral, occupies number 113 of Empedrado Street, where the National Bank was located for more than 60 years. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 6 July 2023 — A room costs between 295 and 383 euros a night this month at the new INNSiDE Habana Catedral hotel, inaugurated last Saturday by the Spanish group Meliá in Old Havana. If the traveler prefers the “Townhouse Suite,” with 560 square feet, king size bed and view of the bay, the price goes up to the stratosphere: 1,825 euros per night.

The prices of the restaurant, according to 14ymedio, follow the same trend. The dishes range from the 700 pesos for a “vegan salad in the style of the chef” to the 2,600 for a beef fillet with potatoes and red wine sauce, through a ceviche at 1,300 pesos, a honeyed rice with seafood at 1,800 or a fish at 2,000 pesos. As for desserts, you can order a brownie or French toast for 450 pesos, or fruit salad for 400 pesos.

On the menu, which has the prices in Cuban pesos (CUP) and in foreign currency, they apply an exchange rate of 120 pesos for freely convertible currency (MLC).

This Thursday, the place was empty. “Four employees for a single customer,” said a young woman from Havana who told about the experience of having a coffee. “There is not even a fly there, and they look at you as if you were an extraterrestrial.”

She paid 264 pesos for the coffee. “A small amount of coffee, I kept it simple,” she says. It was not enough for a bottle of water, which costs, small, 264 pesos, and large, more than 300. “Fortunately they put a glass of water next to the coffee. It was the size for a three-year-old boy, but better than nothing.”

As happens in establishments of this type in the capital, the INNSiDE Habana Catedral does not accept cash, and customers must pay by card. To accept payments, there is have an electronic reader for CUP and another for MLC.

The hotel, one block from the Plaza de la Catedral, occupies number 113 of Empedrado Street, where an office building was located for more than 60 years.

The emblematic and modern building was erected in the early 1950s, not without controversy, as the chronicles of the time testify, on the site of an 18th-century colonial house that had to be demolished. “Instead, and completely out of place in that area, there will be a seven-story ultra Miami skyscraper,” reads the newspaper library of the Diario de la Marina. The property, intended for office use, ultimately had five floors, some of them belonging to the extinct Petroleum Union.

Before being reopened by Meliá, it had been under construction for almost seven years. On its website, the hotel says that it was “conceived to give the most curious travelers an impressive urban experience,” and they invite the foreigner who can afford it: “You will find infinite peace in our pool with unparalleled views of the lighthouse and the sea. Are you ready for the adventure?”

Although luxury hotels are still being opened on the Island, the tourism data do not justify it. The sector, the country’s third largest source of foreign exchange – behind the sale of medical services and remittances – has not managed to recover even half of the international visits recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the latest official figures, between January and August of this year, Cuba received 1,390,000 tourists, barely 44.5% of the total registered in the same period of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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