Varadero Resort For Cubans ‘All Inclusive Scam’

The once luxurious resort of the Hicacos peninsular has been feeling the shadow of what it once was for quite a while. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Olea Gallardo, Havana, 14 September 2023 – In the bus back home to Havana from Varadero, Manuel and his wife, like many other local tourists, talked about nothing else. Every one of them, though having stayed in different hotels, felt that they had been swindled; that despite the stratospherical amount of money they had had to pay for their holiday, in return they had seen only food shortages and terrible service.

Manuel doesn’t even want to remember the name of the establishment where he stayed for four nights in August and payed almost 40,000 pesos for “all inclusive”. “All inclusive? All inclusive scam. All that was available to eat every day was cod or chicken in fricassee, or in sauce, but no pork or beef”, he tells this paper. And he goes on: “The rice was hard, the soft drinks weren’t even the normal canned ones but made up from squash, and the beer was warm, with just a whiskey here or a rum there, terrible, that was all there was to drink.

So, in the end, the couple ended up spending an extra twenty-odd thousand pesos on food from other restaurants, “which in themselves weren’t any big deal”, says Manuel. Even there they didn’t find much satisfaction as the ones that accepted Cuban pesos were the ones that offered limited menus and smaller portions.

In addition, the man lamented: “The room they gave us was dirty, full of hair, with just one tiny towel and nothing else to dry ourselves on. It doesn’t surprise me that we hardly saw any foreign tourists, if they go to Varadero they’re going to be shocked.

“The room they gave us was dirty, full of hair, with just one tiny towel and nothing else to dry ourselves on”

The once luxurious resort of the Hicacos peninsular has been feeling the shadow of what it once was for quite a while. The most recent decline began during the Covid pandemic, when the country’s borders were closed and the tourist industry was paralysed worldwide, and the residents of Varadero were confined in their homes to avoid infection. The resort has not yet managed to crawl out of this hole, a hole which the so called Tarea Ordenamiento — the ’Ordering Task’* — itself has contributed to, as reported by this paper repeatedly in recent years.

Foreign tourists have abandoned the option of Varadero, says a Spanish tourist, Francisca – who travelled to Cuba in July on a tour which took in the entire island but didn’t include the resort in the Matanzas bay area. “We didn’t go there, on the advice of a relative who had just been there and told us that the beach was disgusting, with a lack of services”, she said. “And actually all the ones we did go to – Costa Verde (in Holguín) and Cayo Santa María (in Camagüey) – also seemed very dirty to us”.

In the face of depleted numbers of international tourists, hotels tried to throw themselves into internal tourism, which, viewing general commentary on social media, hasn’t resulted in a satisfied clientele. And the complaints are not limited to Varadero.

One customer of the Starfish Hotel in Cayo Largo said that the buffet at this five star establishment left “much to be desired” and she did not reccomend the place. Another said: “I’ve just come from the Starfish Cayo Guillermo and there was no sugar even for coffee, I had to bring my own flour so that they could bake me a mini cake because they didn’t have flour either, and they were using honey as a sweetener”.

A third Cuban settled the matter of the island’s beach hotels saying: “My opinion is don’t go to any of them. They’re all bad and what’s more, expensive. There’s no correlation between what you pay and the actual quality, especially with the food”.

*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” [Tarea Ordenamiento] is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


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