A consumer association points out the poor quality of hotels and restaurants on the island in comparison to Mexico and the DR.
HAVANA TIMES – Some 160 passengers landed this Wednesday in Varadero from Canada with the low-cost airline Swoop, which inaugurated its routes from Toronto to the Island. The news has been reported with optimism in the official press, which aspires to recover the market that has attracted the most tourists in recent decades. However, it comes just one day after a consumer organization from the Canada recommended not having very high expectations when traveling to Cuba on vacation.
All inclusive in Cuba: don’t get your hopes up, is the title of the article published in French Tuesday by Protegez-vous, an association belonging to International Consumer Research and Testing whose members investigate and advise consumers on all kinds of goods and services. In it, they ask those who choose to spend their vacations on the Island to be aware that they must choose five-star hotels if they are looking for the quality they would get for a four-star hotel in Mexico or the Dominican Republic, although even that option does not guarantee that they will find it.
“If a person tells me that eating well is a priority for them, I don’t recommend Cuba,” Annie-France Lambert, from the Voyages Simon Pelletier agency, told the association. The specialist explains to her compatriots that the bulk of the tourists that the island received were Russians and Canadians, but with the plummeting of Russian clients after the war in Ukraine, the lack of income is evident in food services, even in the best hotels.
“With tourist income in Cuba cut by almost half, there is a direct impact on the quality of services and food,” she says. “There won’t necessarily be any seafood and you may be without wine, alcohol or soft drinks for a few days,” Lambert continues. Her recommendation is not to expect the great luxuries you’ll find in other Caribbean destinations if you don’t pay “a great price.”
The article also warns of how complicated it can be to get the money refunded if the client is not satisfied. “Unless the travel agent has omitted or misrepresented some information, the consumer doesn’t have much recourse,” says Moscou Côté, president of the Quebec Association of Travel Agents (AAVQ) and manager of the Voyages Constellation agency.
To request compensation, it is necessary to demonstrate that the services do not correspond to what was promised verbally or in the written contract. “For example, a client could not ask for compensation for considering that the food served was not good if they had been warned before their trip of its poor quality.”
Lambert also details that the compensation by the agency is proportional in case of agreement. “If, for example, we told the client that there was a seafood restaurant and there was not, we compensate the damage at its fair value, that is, one meal of 21 in a stay of one week,” she explains. The compensation can be in cash or on a future trip, although if the parties do not agree, it will be necessary to file a claim in court.
Those consulted for the article also explain how to cancel the trip, something that will only be allowed if you have insurance or a clause that allows it. If not, it is possible to exchange it for a more expensive destination, specifies Côté.
Lambert for her part recommends that, for those who persist in going to Cuba despite the warnings, it is best to be realistic: “Go without having too many expectations, the disappointments will be less. That is what we usually say!”
Swoop’s new flights seem to stray slightly from scenarios like these. The airline does not force you to buy a complete travel package, with hotel and other expenses included, so it makes it easier to go to rental houses or other options, although the recommendations for consumers would be, in this case, even more necessary, since access to a certain quality of food or other elements is complicated.
Swoop Airlines will fly three times a week to Varadero from Toronto, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and is the 16th company to choose the Juan Gualberto Gómez airport. A few weeks ago, the authorities blamed the bad tourism figures this year – which until December totaled just over 1.3 million travelers compared to the 1.7 then expected and the 2.5 projected at the beginning of the year – on delays of the airlines to return to the Island, although the flights have been taking place for a year now, after the worst of the pandemic.
Translated by Translating Cuba