Cuba /Sep 07, 2016

Has Cuba Been Spoiled?

For many of those contemplating a holiday to Cuba, there is often that nagging thought, have I left it too late – has Cuba been spoiled?

The simple answer, at least in my opinion, is no. I have been visiting Cuba for over 20 years now and the vast majority of the changes over the years have been positive – the advent of Habaguanex in Havana and the growth in casa particulares for example. The food is also a whole lot better.

It’s also worth noting that Cuba is a relatively large island, over 1000kms long, and starts from a very low base when it comes to development. Varadero, the island’s largest resort, may be home to over 50 hotels but drive 15 minutes inland and you’ll find yourself back in the 1950s.

Varadero

All good then.

I only raise the issue because, while doing research on the internet, I came across the video in this post. Even if you don’t speak Spanish the message is clear enough. Cuba is set for a massive increase in hotel beds over the coming years.

Gaviota is one of Cuba’s key tourism businesses (it is actually the commercial arm of the military!) and owns many of the island’s hotels as well as providing transport services. Some Gaviota hotels are run directly by the company while others are managed by international companies such as Melia or Iberostar. As an example, all of the hotels in Baracoa are owned and run directly by Gaviota.

Getting back to the main subject though, the plans for all these new beach hotels are quite overwhelming to some of us soppy old-hands.

Cayo Las Brujas has, until now, been home to a somnolent, little airport and the tiny Villa Las Brujas hotel. Building 2000 plus hotels rooms will somewhat change its character. With nearby Cayo Santa Maria set to see twice as many new rooms, what too will happen to Remedios and Caibarien on the mainland?

Villa Las Brujas

When I first visited Remedios there was just the one hotel, the Mascotte, very few casa particulares, barely anywhere to eat……and no tourists. Today, Remedios has 3 hotels, over 100 casa particulares and the main square is increasingly full of day-trippers from Cayo Santa Maria. Will it be able to cope with four times as many visitors and traffic?

On the other hand, nearby Caibarien still has no hotels and just a handful of casa particulares. Will this be the saving of a town that seemed set for terminal decline?

For the Cubans themselves, the idea of their country being spoiled by hotel development is clearly a nonsense; they are impatient for work and the opportunities that such development will bring. Only time will tell if the authorities manage to strike the right balance.

Remedios

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