Spanish Hotels Want Cuban Tourists

HAVANA TIMES — The Spanish hotel chain in Cuba, Melia Hotels International, has developed a marketing campaign to attract Cuban tourists, inviting them to visit their 25 facilities on the island, reported the Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

The specialist of the company’s Cuba division, Alejandro Fuentefria, said discount sales are being offered at eight tourist destinations and that the company is promoting its services to Cuban tour operators.

Melia’s promotional campaign “Cuba in every sense” is seeking to offset the usual offseason decline among foreign customers by replacing it with Cuban vacationers, which should mean a 15 to 20 percent increase in revenue for the company.

8 thoughts on “Spanish Hotels Want Cuban Tourists

  • Cuba seems to have three situations regarding hotels – those wholly owned and managed by the Cuban government, those wholly owned by the government but under foreign management, and those with 20%-50% foreign interests, managed by the interests. The guidebooks write about slight differences between the three types but with no clear preferences expressed in terms of services or facilities offered. Cuba is usually rated as an economy tourist destination with better facilities found in other sun destinations, but costing more.

    This would indicate there is room for improvement for both government and foreign run hotels in terms of attracting more up market tourism. From conversations with fellow Canadians, the reason I mostly hear for not holidaying in Cuba is a desire for better food and accommodations.

    I would argue capitalists, as long as they can make juicy profits and their enterprises are not threatened, don’t give a fig about the bigger picture – in this case, why the Cuban government has opened up the country to tourism in the first place.

    ‘John Sparre’ doesn’t understand “why Cubans are not into backpacker tourism”, feeling that backpackers are “the real high end of the market” as “they are easy to please and there is no off season for backpackers”. I’ve found no statistics to back up his claim but it’s obvious more tourists would be crawling through Cuba than ever before.

    Bluntly speaking, tourists are tolerated in countries for one reason – the money they bring to the economy. Otherwise, they are strangers in your country who rarely get to know you or come to understand your ways, or even want to. Backpackers are more open-minded but the ones I see mostly hang out and socialize with fellow backpackers, so not much different than tourists cosseted in their hotel enclaves.

    There are few true travelers in the world. Paul Bowles an expatriate American who lived most of his life in Morocco, in his book, “The Sheltering Sky” was intrigued by the differences between a tourist and a traveler. He wrote, “The tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another.”

    “Another important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

    And in the film made from the book there is this exchange between the three main characters:

    Tunner: We’re probably the first tourists they’ve had since the war.
    Kit: Tunner, we’re not tourists. We’re travelers.
    Tunner: Oh. What’s the difference?
    Port: A tourist is someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive, Tunner.
    Kit: Whereas a traveler might not come back at all.

    I think of tourists as being similar to a cash crop – to be harvested as efficiently as possible for the funds they bring in, not the sustenance they offer.

  • Thank you, Lawrence W. I stand in awe of someone like you. If only we could recruit you and a couple of others to help lead our movement, we could alter the Universe in short order.

    Much of what john sparre says is true, although, as you understand, he comes from a pro-capitalist viewpoint. Too bad the monopolist machine he inadvertently winds up supporting is destroying the world environment! So, he will be smug and self-righteous, right up to the irreversible end.

    What socialism needs to do is recognize and utilize the enormous potential of the socialist cooperative entrepreneur for socialist construction. Cheers.

  • Interesting points being made. It sounds like the standard co-op model needs some adjustments to better suit the tourism industry. I think it’s preferable to adapt cooperatives rather than live with the evils of capitalism. Let’s have a look at the serious, endemic problems the capitalist model brings, impossible to eliminate due to its basic flaw – it is not designed to serve the common good.

    Sorry, ‘John Sparre’, the ‘invisible hand’ crock has long been debunked as interpreted by the Chicago Boys. Adam Smith’s meaning is different. We can discuss.

    Friedman’s was a simple, elegant theory that unfortunately reality contradicts. Ideologues don’t much care but ordinary folks who pay the price of the unreality do.

    While not staying on the peninsula, I’ve spent time in the environs of Varadero, the largest tourist enclave in Cuba with the most foreign hotels so I’ve witnessed the reality that exists there. Also, as the vast majority of English-speaking tourists are Canadian, I’ve had many conversations with them (I didn’t encounter any francophone Canadians).

    I choked on my cornflakes, well muesli actually, when ‘john sparre’ wrote as an argument for why foreign companies should be allowed to run Cuban hotels, writing, “most nationalities prefer to eat their own food. try the fish and chips in spain or bulgaria”

    So why, by universal agreement – don’t take my word for it, read any Cuban travel guide or blog or talk to anyone who has stayed in one of these hotels – the food at these hotels is notoriously BAD. The simple fact is, by common understanding, foreign hotels are NOT using their nationals, but local Cuban chefs to prepare dishes they never eat at home or are traditional to their families, because it’s CHEAPER. It’s the capitalist way – minimize labour costs to make a profit.

    So much for the argument that foreign involvement in hotel management promotes tourism. In every conversation I have ever had when trying to promote holidaying in Cuba with my fellow Canadians, I’ve had to deal with Cuba’s reputation for having a bad cuisine. As a lover of ‘criolas’ cooking, it is maddening and frustrating. If only they could break away from foreign-managed hotels – but ‘plan inclusive’ is the norm.

    There are other related significant issues. Foreign companies promote their nationals, not Cubans to higher positions. They also favour white-skinned Cubans when hiring, as more simpatico for interfacing with white-skinned tourists, supporting a racist, non-egalitarian society.

    I can go on, but pause for comments (if you dare! ;)…

  • for once i agree with grady on one thing. it may be the thinking of the government to guarantee profits of foreign investors by prohibiting co-op competition. grady is american. where woud capital for a co-op hotel come from in cuba? there is a co-op system in asia. it’s called families. a family has some land or a house at a beach. they put up a few nipa huts and a few years later the extended family has 10 small concrete resorts with all the amenities including restaurants where they have learned to cook the food that the tourists like. disgruntled cooks are poached from foreign owned resorts. typically these small resorts have about 20 small concrete houses which stand in typhoons and branches of the family, cousins and adult children get loans to build their own resort from the original small developer who by this time is bringing in supplies of food and building materials with an SUV. the start up capital is a few hundred dollars and if you go back a few years later there is a multi-million resort complex. although the campismo system is functional private people do it better and no state or bank loans-capital is needed. it’s the same in the cities and towns. a private house is turned into a hostel for adventure tourists with a few rooms added and in busy areas a few years later the house is gone and replaced by a 4 to 6 floor hotel. around this nucleus of private hostels small entrepreneurs provide the entertainments from bars to motorbike rental and small travel agents to sell mini-bus tickets to the next resort. that’s capitalism and there is no need for government bureaucrats to be involved except to sell business licences. in some countries the ministry of tourism sets minimum standards. in my opinion this is unnecessary interference except for fire and safety standards. the hidden hand of the market will determine which resorts or hotels become popular. bad ones improve or fail. but anyone should be able to do what they like in the hotel-hostel business. if a group of friends rather than a family did the things above you could call it a co-op if you like. the problem with groups running a business is disputes and arguments over the best way to do things. a contract is necessary. the partners have first option to buy so that no more problem investors get into the business. co-ops are fractious groups and you know what they say about weird looking animals? it wasn’t designed by god. it was designed by a committee.

  • Wow, John, thanks for the run-down. You obviously know quite a lot about the subject.

    My point was and is that indigenous Cuban cooperative entrepreneurs could have–if there had been a proper cooperative law, plus PCC material support and encouragement–led in the development of Cuban tourist hotels–of all sorts.

    That does not mean that other countries like Spain would have or should have been shut out of the Cuban market. (Nor that Cuban cooperative entrepreneurs have been shut out of the tourist hotel market in other countries.) What I’m saying here is that the old idea of state ownership of everything, plus plenty of foreign capital ownership to share the wealth with foreign capitalists concerns, should not have been the “model.”

    Cooperative state co-ownership–instead of bureaucratic state monopoly–if it had been the formula for socialist functionality, would have done it differently and, arguably, much better.

  • grady, there are several reasons for foreign ownership of hotels and as i understand it those hotels are only 49% foreign owned. 1. free money. the cuban partner gets 51% for no capital investment. 2. the foreign partner is the one who does the advertising and sales in the home country. i.e. no one knows spain like a spaniard. in the past, japanese wouldn’t go to country unless the hotel was japanese owned. the japanese like to make the bulk of the profits and japanese travel agents will not sell a ticket unless japanese cronies have a more than average profit margin even if they don’t own the hotels, duty-frees , japanese retaurants etc. japanese tourists are herded into expensive japanese owned duty-frees and if they stray into a cheaper duty-free the tour guide herds them out into the japanese owned duty-free. in other words…it’s my way or the highway. 3. japanese will not eat western food and the same goes for the chinese and most nationalities prefer to eat their own food. try the fish and chips in spain or bulgaria. 4. hotels know what their people want and demand. japanese for example demand very strict standards of hygene. 5. managing a luxury hotel is not rocket science but it is close to it. hotel schools are like french cooking schools. they teach how to do everything perfectly. if you casn’t afford to stay at a luxury hotel try the restaurant or coffee shop and you will see what i mean. it may be against your socialist principles to cater to the demanding middle class or the wealthy but they don’t come unless standards are very high. in my experience, it is the middle class package tourists who go to cuba and for the money they get a better standard than most places. in india, you get a standard higher than the middle class can normally afford and the same for many other places. say for example you want japanese tourists in cuba. where do you gat the chef? where do you get the food ingredients? start training a cuban sushi guy? manufacture miso? backackers are the real high end of the market and they are easy to please and there is no off season for backpackers with gap year students. i have commented on this before and i don’t know why cubans are not into backpacker tourism. thais and filipinos and most countries know where the money is, backpackers. and there is no need for expensive infrastructure. old hotels, cheap old hotels and campismo cabanas will do. they can be a problem. the young drink too much but there is money in alcohol sales and hospital treatment for those who have accidents while drinking and airfreight of the dead to be cynical but honest. the biggest backpacker precinct in the world is khao sanh road in bangkok and it is an interesting experience especially at water festival time. cheap food, cheap booze, music videos and water pistols and water machine guns. it’s like amsterdam. playland for the not quite mature. one theory i have is that elderly socialist bureaucrats just don’t get it. most young people are apolitical and that cindi lauper song says it all. girls just wanna have fun….and the boys too. the majority of socialists had a hard life when they were young and that is why they are too serious too be in the entertainment business. the young may be spoiled but what can you do? youth is such a wonderful thing. it’s a pity it’s wasted on the young!

  • It is difficult for me to understand how a socialist party and government can allow a foreign capitalist hotel chain to develop in Cuba, while a domestic worker-owned, cooperative hotel chain is prohibited by law. I think it goes back to the Marxian perversion of socialism as the state owning everything productive–which requires the continuation of wage labor and bureaucratic absolutism–and considers direct worker ownership via cooperatives as capitalistic and anti-socialist.

    It is perhaps too late to disabuse the PCC of its incorrect understanding of authentic, workable socialism. It is not too late however for US socialists to define socialism correctly for the program to which we hope to win the US people.

  • mr alejandro fuentefria melia cuba

    kindly email to me
    [email protected]

    hotel rates in varadero and santiago de cuba for melia hotels. you have a good product. kindly email me your contact email in vra cuba thanks very much

Comments are closed.