Cuban hotels overpriced and underwhelming
Havana, Cuba – 15 February 2017 –
Many tourists flocking to Cuba – the Caribbean’s new “it” destination – complain the state-owned hotel industry is underwhelming and overpriced, Agence France-Presse reported.
Tourists have been flooding Cuba ever since its historic rapprochement with the United States was announced in December 2014.
A record four million visited the communist-ruled island – population 11 million – last year, an increase of 13 percent from 2015.
That has sent prices soaring. But, in a country where limited supply and years of underinvestment are hallmarks of the hotel industry, price doesn’t necessarily mean quality.
Jean Orsini, a French tourist, found his room had a rust-stained shower, and spent so long waiting for his dinner that he nearly gave up.
“At the travel agency in Marseille, they told us they were sending us to the best hotel. But you pay 175 euros a night, and you just know it’s not worth the price,” said the 82-year-old retiree.
Spanish tourist Pilar Esteras was appalled by the staff’s nonchalance at her hotel. Maria Teresa Gutierrez of Colombia had no running water at times and found her US$250 a night room was less than clean. Yet all three tourists stayed in four- and five-star hotels.
Their experiences are an indication of the industry’s problems in Cuba, even though the state now co-manages many hotels with foreign companies such as Accor of France, Iberostar of Spain and Blue Diamond of Canada.
In fact, 17 private companies operate two-thirds of the hotels in Cuba. But they have little control over things like infrastructure maintenance and the availability of good staff in a country where hospitality training is scarce and wages are meager – less than US$30 a month.
In one well-known four-star hotel in Havana, the rate has risen from US$110 a night to US$285 in less than two years. In another, the price jumped from US$90 to US$202 in a year.
But if anything, surging demand has only stretched the hotels’ staff and resources further. “Cuba still hasn’t managed to match the international quality standards those prices imply,” said Jose Luis Perello, an industry expert at the University of Havana.
And a European hotel manager in Havana, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The value-for-money issue causes a lot of complaints.”