Super Luxury Hotel Opens in Havana, Cuba

Out of all the luxury stores found inside the hotel, one has already been able to make a sale: a portfolio and a pen.

By Cubaencuentro

Gran Hotel Manzana. Photos. Kempinski Havana

HAVANA TIMES —  The Gran Hotel Manzana, the first five-star plus hotel in Cuba, opened its doors Monday in Havana operated by the Swiss company Kempinski, which considers the facility its “point” of entry to the Americas, AFP reported.

Located in the heart of the Cuban capital, opposite Parque Central and Havana’s Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro, the hotel welcomed its first customers on Monday, although it won’t be officially inaugurated until June, according to Cuban TV.

“We manage hotels, normally just a few, a select few one. We like gems, and this fits in nicely with the Kempinski philosophy,” declared the corporation’s CEO, Xavier Destribats.

Kempinski, which is the oldest hotel group in Europe, runs 74 luxury hotels in 30 countries, but the Gran Hotel Manzana is its first hotel in the Americas.

Areal view of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski.

Owned by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Force’s Gaviota group, the hotel has 246 rooms, 50 of which are suites, bars, restaurants, a spa, gym, heated swimming pool on the roof and an exclusive room for cigar smokers.

The cheapest room goes for US $440 per person per night, and the presidential suite costs $2,485.

The hotel fills an entire block building which was completely restored by the Cuban construction company UCM and the French company Bouygues, which hired laborers from India for the job.

The first European-style shopping center in Cuba stood here, the Manzana de Gomez, which was opened to the public in 1917.

On the hotel’s first floor, there is also a gallery of stores from prestigious international brands including Versace, Giorgio Armani, Lacoste and Montblanc, as well as stores selling Cuban rum, coffee and cigars.

Even though prices are way out of any ordinary Cuban’s reach, many locals came to walk through the gallery of stores on Monday.

The cigar lounge.

The average monthly salary here in Cuba is around $29, although the slow and cautious economic opening promoted by the Raul Castro’s Government has led to a flourishing private sector with greater purchasing power.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s diplomatic reconciliation with Washington has made visits by US citizens fly through the roof.

“The hotel is really beautiful, but everything is awfully expensive here. It’s not for the Cuban people,” declared 29 years old housewife Lidia Martinez to AFP.

“We haven’t had the honor of selling any watches as of yet, but yesterday (Sunday), we sold our first portfolio and pen,” explained Leonardo Padilla, a saleman at the Montblanc store, where the price of a watch varies from $1,775 to $4,500.

21 thoughts on “Super Luxury Hotel Opens in Havana, Cuba

  • Ryan you still don’t comprehend the system that applies to employing Cubans in Cuba. You demonstrate that with your comment that if: “these hotels provide decent pay for their employees and make their lives better.”
    The companies managing the GAESA owned hotels like the Manzana do not pay those employed there. They pay GAESA a highly inflated price per employee by contract and GAESA then pays the employees a small fraction of the money they receive. But Cubans like to work in the tourism sector because of the tips – after all, a $1 tip is more than a day’s pay.
    It is because of that system that the usual charge against foreign business people is “corruption”. Good managers in the capitalist world are accustomed to paying better wages to the better employees. But to add any payment to the pitiful wages that Cubans receive, is deemed “corruption” and those doing so when reported are given a non-public trial and jailed. How are they reported? The employees eventually leak to supposed friends and neighbours about their good fortune – and then that reaches the ever alert ears of the CDR.
    The doubting Thomases like Nick, will suggest that that is hearsay, but it is only a couple of years ago that the British manager of the Saratoga Hotel in downtown Havana was arrested in front of his children as they were leaving for school for the ‘crime’ I have described.
    Mr, Tokmajdian a Canadian who held the Hundai francise for the whole of Cuba was similarly jailed for the same ‘crime’ in his case for fourteen years and his business confiscated with no compensation.
    Yes, the Casa Particulars are the best way to go and to see Cuba, But don’t forget that if a Cuban invites you to stay in their own home for free, they can be jailed. If married to a Cuban, that no longer applies.

  • “…everything is awfully expensive here. It’s not for the Cuban people.” It is not for lots of people who got to Cuba to experience the beauty of its land and its people. I travel on a small budget because I like to experience places, and would never think of staying in a place like this, even if I had lots of money to burn. The CPs provide a great experience and I would never want to do otherwise when that option is available. But, if foreign businesses want to build these; and people from around the world have a desire to stay in a place like this; and the proceeds help fund public social services for the Cuban people; and these hotels provide decent pay for their employees and make their lives better; maybe the benefits outweigh the downside of these “whorish spectacles”? Why would they not be big money makers?

  • Forbes “reporting” Fidel’s net worth at over $900 million was just using a baseless assumption that everything belonging to the Cuban government can be counted as being owned by Fidel, no?
    It’s humorous when someone states a claim as a “fact” without any supporting factual evidence to back it up- and then says if you can’t disprove it with facts then it is “true.”

  • As a devotee of the Castro family communist dictatorship,you know that access to information is denied in Cuba. You appear to consider that employees of a company are ignorant of everything related to it.
    RAFINSA is a 27% shareholder of ETECSA. The principles of RAFINSA at the time of the purchase of the previously Italiian owned shares were Raul and Fidel Castro. The price paid was $706 million.
    Disprove that!

  • Estimations, guesses, sizes of boats, bed and breakfasts, French socialists etc etc ad infinitum……..
    But still no evidence to back up your assertion that Rafin SA personally belongs to Raul Castro and/or Fidel’s descendants rather than to the Cuban State.

    If you say that the moon is made of cheese and challenge others to disprove it, that doesn’t mean that it is a fact that the moon is actually made of cheese.

    I would seem that we’ve now firmly established that you cannot provide any evidence for your latest assertion.
    As you are unable to provide evidence, may I be so bold as to suggest that you do yourself a useful favour and look up the meaning of the word ‘fact’??

    Meanwhile I think I shall move on.

  • In over a year, nobody has been able to disprove any statement made in ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’
    So Nick, time for you to get off your sofa and do some research.
    Forbes magazine estimated Fidel Castro’s worth at over $900 million.
    Celebrity Networth named Raul Castro as the highest paid politician in the world.
    Fidel Castro’s yacht Aquarama II was only 85 feet long. But Antonio (Tony) Castro – one of the five sons by Dalia Soto de Valle who Fidel married belatedly – had a 160 foot long yacht when visiting Bodrum in Turkey and stayed in a five star hotel. This the son of a man who told the people of Cuba that he was paid only $43 per month and lived in a fisheman’s hut.
    I did not use either of the above publications as supporting the statements which I made.
    If as ‘I’ (Nick) knows so much about ETECSA, do give the name of the manufacturer of their service vans. do give the rate that ETECSA pays for bed and breakfast foir their service personel. My research was done on the ground and included discussion with ETECSA employees.
    Why do you think that Francois Hollande welcomed Raul Castro to the Elysee Palace?
    Don’t bother accepting what I have written, just produce your own evidence.

  • So no evidence then?
    Thought not.
    No differentiation between fact, opinion or rumour??
    All three are pretty much the same for your good self then huh???

  • A psychiatrist Nick would probably provide an interesting analysis of someone who in a short contribution uses “I” eleven times.

  • Not for the first time you state that I approve of the current Cuban government.
    As I have said many times, I have an objective point of view. What’s more I am fully aware of the fact that there are various different governmental systems in the countries of this world. In my experience none are perfect.

    I am also fully aware of the role that nepotism plays in Cuba’s system.
    What’s more I am aware that the phenomena of nepotism is not specific to Cuba.
    I can express opinions on this Hotel (It’s a building that I have passed through many times over the past 20+ years prior to it’s recent renovation).
    I can even express opinions on the so called ‘vulgarity’ of excessive individual wealth.
    I can also express opinions on whether such hotels are better off being so close to normal Cuban neighbourhoods. Or whether it is preferable for luxury hotels to be in enclaves as they are in many parts of the Caribbean (With tourists being advised not to venture outside of the enclave for their own safety).

    But what I would most like to point out is that last week you were stating that Mao Tse Tung was responsible for a policy that was issued years after his death (a policy he was set against).
    And this week you are suggesting that Rafin SA personally belongs to Raul Castro and/or Fidel’s descendants rather than to the Cuban State.
    You were incorrect last week and seemingly cannot provide any evidence for your assertion this week???

  • It is most apparent from your many comments that you Nick approve of the current Cuban communist dictatorship.
    The Cuban military do not own shares, they own the 57 subsidiaries of GAESA. The Head of the military in Cuba is Raul Castro Ruz. That office is not one that goes along with the presidency. Fidel Castro never held it. Raul Castro has said that he will retire as President in 2018 – but has not said that he intends to retire as Head of the military.
    Why Nick if you are so smart and so well informed, don’t you prove that I am incorrect?
    I don’t just not approve of the Castro dictatorship and the power and control that it exerts over the people of Cuba, I detest all dictatorships – that includes not only the communist ones, but also those like Pinochet and Batista.
    There are those among you and your ilk, who whilst sitting in the comfort of the capitalist world want others to live under repression with no freedom of speech, no freedom of the media and no hope of opporunity to improve the lives of their children.

  • It is most apparent from your many comments that you do not approve of the current Cuban system of governance.
    But I’m not sure that you entirely answer Ryan’s question.
    There is a Military Industrial Complex in Cuba.
    That is indeed a fact.
    It is different to the Military Industrial Complex in the USA.
    The Cuban military own huge shares in Cuban state companies.
    However there is no evidence that I am aware of that these shares are therefore the personal property of Raul or Fidel (or perhaps you mean Fidel’s descendants).
    It is a fact that an Italian telecom company sold it’s 27% stake in ETECSA to Rafin S.A. (A Cuban State owned Entity?)
    I would be most interested if you would refer us all to some evidence that Rafin S.A. is owned by Raul Castro and/or Fidel’s descendants.
    Please enlighten as to any evidence of these two assertions if you would be so kind.

  • Ryan re-read what I wrote. Gaviota is a subsidiary of GAESA. The Boss of GAESA is the son-in-law of Raul Castro Ruz who originally established GAESA after he became Head of the military in October 1959 following the disappearance of the non-communist Camilo Cienfuegos who was Head of the military with Raul being his deputy. GAESA now controls over 80% of the Cuban economy having 57 subsidiaries. These include Gaviota and Transtur, all the retail outlets – TRD, Pan-Americana, Cimex etc. and even the Ministry of Sugar.
    It is a factual statement that when the Italians decided to sell their 27% holding in ETECSA, a company was formed named after its principals RA(Raul Castro)FI(Fidel Castro)NSA

  • It is disgusting to see this display of vulgar wealth.

  • Carlyle, could you please provide citations or sources where one can verify the claims you make about the Castro family benefiting from these construction enterprises? Or is this just what “everyone knows” but really can’t be factually documented? I’m not saying you’re incorrect but there’s so much bs out here, so many accusations have been made against the Castros without any factual basis, one needs to be able to document claims from reputable sources. Thanks

  • Boycott this extravagant bullsh_t and stay with a local in a Casa Particular. Cuba was one of the last bastions of beautiful culture and earthiness. You can stay in a luxury hotel anywhere in the world, do you really need to do it here? Go to Dubai instead.

  • I suppose the guests at the hotel will be there to experience “the real Cuba”

  • The direct involvement of President Raul Castro’s family is not surprising. The Gran Hotel Manzana is owned by a GAESA subsidiary and the boss of GAESA is Raul Castro Ruz’s son-in-law General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Callejas. It reflects the hypocrisy of Communism – the father of General Rodriguez Callejas being Major General Guillermo Rodriguez de Pezo a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
    The direct involvement of the Castro family regime is not surprising and their portfolio of shares and property is ever increasing – the interest in the Gran Hotel Manzana can be added to the 27% shareholding in ETECSA.
    The use of Indian not Cuban workers at the behest of the Castro family is a true reflection of their contempt for the Cuban proletarian mass which they have worked so hard to create. This is the reality of the much vaunted “Socialismo”.
    Where are the syncopants to support this project and its morality?
    The clearance of those trees in Central Park was clearly at the behest of the owners of the Hotel – Gaviota a subsidiary of GAESA. Any pronouncements by Raul Castro Ruz about the environment or the evils of capitalism are fully exposed as hypocrisy. To his driving purpose of power and control, the acquisition of personal and family wealth can be added. But there will be no mention of corruption!
    The same family trait of enjoying wealth could be observed in Fidel Castro who tried to persuade the people of Cuba that he lived a simple life whilst luxuriating on his two island retreat of Cayo Piedra and sailing his yacht Aquarama II.
    What about Raul’s son enjoying the mediterranean resorts of the wealthy?
    There is one outstanding consequence of the construction of the Gran Hotel Manzana. As it occupies a complete city block, it must be unique in not hosting an office of the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution.

  • The worst part about this whorish spectacle is that hotels which market themselves at this price point, while consistently profitable, are never big moneymakers. Luxury hotels cost far more to operate and their customers are harder to please. One thing is for sure, I bet the front desk and wait staff will be all white.

  • We were in Cuba in March. We stayed in a casa particular (B&B) to really get to now the people. We stayed a week in two locations. We would not be able to afford this new hotel either, like the Cuban people cannot.

  • This is a slap in the face to the Cuban people by FAR and the Cuban government.
    It reeks of everything which El Jefe Fidel Castro and his Revolution stood for.
    While Cuban workers are paid paltry salaries and must struggle to put food (when it’s available) on the table, the government is catering to well-to-do North Americans and other foreigners.
    While ninety percent of the buildings in Vieja, Centro and Vedado are decaying, the government pays foreign workers high salaries to construct grand hotels.
    In this case, it is the Cuban government itself which is engaged in counter-revolutionary activity. Where’s the CDR?

  • Disgusting. This is like a chaste, unemployed mother prostituting herself to feed her children. Cuba’s sources of income to keep the country running are limited, definately due in part to poor management. Inviting the super-rich to luxury hotels in Havana though seems uncomfortably close to Rubio Cuban zoo comments. I miss the gritty old Manzana.

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