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! ;)…

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