Fernando Ravsberg*

Hotel Pernik in Holguin, Cuba. Photo: Amauris Betancourt/radioangulo.cu

HAVANA TIMES — “Hotel Pernik, Holguin. How can we help you?”

“I need to book three rooms.”

“Look, sir, we’ve been instructed not to make any more bookings at the front desk. You have to do it through an agency.”


“Havanatur, good morning.”

“I need to book three rooms at the Hotel Pernik in Holguin.”

“Unfortunately, the system’s down and we can’t do any bookings at the moment.”


“Hotel Pernik, Holguin, so-and-so speaking, how may I help you?”

“Yes, I called the hotel and they told me I had to make my bookings through an agency. We went to Havanatur and they told us your system is down and that they can’t make any reservations at this time. Could you tell me how I can book my rooms, then?”

“Havanatur can’t make any bookings at this hotel, see. You have to call Isla Azul in Holguin and make your booking through them.”


“Good morning, Isla Azul, so-and-so speaking, how may I help you?”

“I need to book three rooms at the Pernik in Holguin.”

“How many people will be staying at the hotel?”

“Three people.”

“Then why do you want to book three rooms?”

“Because they want to stay in separate rooms.”

“It’s not a question of what they want to do, but how the hotel can accommodate them.”


“There are no “buts”, sir, we have many booking requests right now. It seems all of Havana is sending people down here. They don’t stop coming, we can’t keep up.”

“Let’s see if we can understand one another. They will pay you for three rooms, but they have to be separate.”

“That’s not the way things work. We decide how to accommodate the guests, and they have to share a room.”


“Look, sir, that’s what we can do for you now. Should I book you the room or not?”

“I’m actually not sure, because two of them are foreigners and I don’t think they’ll be too happy about having to share a room.”

“You should have said so at the start. If they’re foreign, then there’s no problem. We’ll book three separate rooms for them.”

“Great. What’s my booking number?”

“I can’t give it to you now, the hotel system is down.”


Cuba’s hotel, transportation and tourism infrastructure in general leave a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency.

These conversations may seem like a joke, but they’re absolutely true. We could say they are part of the everyday, “magic realism” of socialism (perhaps not as “real” as Soviet socialism, but certainly a lot less “updated” than we would want).

Many tourists come to the country hoping to plunge into this fantastic, Caribbean isle, but most like to look at it from the outside, without the wheels of bureaucracy grinding their vacations into bits with absurd resolutions and restrictions.

Cuba faces the imminent challenge of increased tourism from the United States, one of its closest and most profitable markets. It is estimated the inflow of US tourists that are to visit Cuba in the coming years could double the total number of tourists currently traveling to the island.

These are demanding people who must be handled with “silk gloves”, if the country wishes to see them return. Failing this, this market will have been ruined in a few years and the country will lose a historic opportunity to make a leap forward in the industry.

Growth will continue to be slow for the time being, but, as soon as Washington authorizes tourism in Cuba, many US citizens will travel to the island to see with their own eyes this small and strange country that survived the hostility of eleven US presidents.

There are practically no true, luxury hotels in Cuba.

In the beginning, the allure of the forbidden will suffice to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the island, but much more than the country’s natural beauty, Cubans’ educational level and general safety will be required to make them come back and become regular visitors.

This will be difficult to achieve while tourists find that many suites in a 5-star, seaside hotel have broken ACs, the ice-machine is broken and that the foreign manager of an establishment has no choice to but wait tables owing to personnel shortages.

For decades, we heard speeches in Cuba warning of the dangers that the island’s proximity to the world’s greatest military power entailed. Now, the Americans are finally coming, but they are coming in peace, and it would be very ironic if the country were not prepared for this.
(*) Visit the website of Fernando Ravsberg.


25 thoughts on “Cuba: The Americans Are Coming!

  • Your lack of knowledge about the Cuban revolution and Cuban history is made manifest through your posts. You want the revolution to be this romantic quixotic quest to bring socialism to Cuba by a population that was tired of Capitalism when it was nothing of the sort.

    And after reading your many posts I have serious doubts about your supposed age. But even if you were, it simply shows that age does not bring about wisdom.

    I’ve lived the reality of your fantasy in Cuba and so I can say that you have NO idea what your talking about.

  • Attn: Sandy ::: I hope you are a big tipper – Si !!! Many americans with degrees bounce basketballs fo huge $$$$$. Michel Jordon is now worth over a billion $$$$$ – Si !!!

  • I do not think so – they are directly related to the late Celia Sanchez and by adoption to the past Vice President of Cuba – Dr. Machado.

  • Having spent a great deal of time in Jamaica, I have seen many American tourists come into some of the local bars and restaurants whose customers were invariably all black Jamaicans who only spoke in heavily- accented English ( Jamaican patois ).
    The fear of this strange environment in them was palpable .
    They belonged in the all-inclusive luxury hotels where guests are warned not to go outside the fenced and guarded grounds where they would be waited on hand and foot by personnel who speak what the Jamaicans call ” radio English) -still accented but more understandable to Americans .
    This business about Cubans having to learn English is the same bullshit as I’ve always heard about the French.
    Americans say that the French are rude to American tourists because when a visiting American asks a French person a question in English-no matter how much slower and louder they ask the same question -the French person -very rudely -refuses to learn English in the five seconds required to answer the question.
    Stay in the States
    Abroad, you’ll only be one more Ugly American .

  • The last time I went to Cuba we had no hotel reservations at all. We knew we would be taken care of and were. There was a kiosk at the airport that matched visitors with private homes that wanted to take in tourists. We selected a home in Havana and the kiosk lady called us a taxi that brought us right to our destination. Then we found a service that arranged a similar home for us in Pinar Del Rio. The meals we were served there were fantastic.

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