Cuba: The Americans Are Coming!

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.”

“But…”

“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.”

“But…”

“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!

  • That is not true, but really, which percent of the tourist population can afford truly luxury hotels. All inclusive hotels are not truly luxurious, ok. Most Americans would be ok in Cuba.

    Reply
    • Cuba is the same as Canada – you get what you pay for. The high end Melia and Iberostar are very well managed with top food – bar drinks – entertainment and very nice rooms / suites. These hotels / resorts are head quartered in Spain as are most of the high end properties in Cuba .

      Reply
      • America is the same as Canada – you get what you pay for.
        What’s your point?
        No “luxury” hotel in Cuba is luxurious by Canadian or US standards. I know. I’ve traveled. Revamping anything to accommodate Americans is pointless. Let them enjoy the beach, sites, and mediocre (to very bad food) like everyone else.
        And Cubans must learn to speak English if they want American turistas to return.

        Reply
        • You should try the Melia Royal section in many Melia Paradisus resorts. I am very pleased to learn that the Cuban Government has interests in Cuban resorts and hotels as my two youngest children are being raised in Cuba. Both have Cuban and Canadian rights. Michel will be a dr. of International Laws – Angelica a dr. of Surgery. Both are going to enter Cuban politics after they complete their education.
          Note : The Melia A.I. Resorts have very good food and have two types of smoked salmon. They serve imported premium spirts / wines / beers which have no cost to their guests.

          Reply
          • Your children will likely have those degrees and serve me drinks at an AI resort

          • 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.

          • 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 !!!

        • The United States will be Spanish-speaking within a couple of generations and join the rest of the hemisphere in that regard .
          Spanish is certainly easier to learn, spell and pronounce than is English and is far more mellifluous.
          Miami is already considered something like the 2nd or 3rd largest Spanish-speaking city in the Western Hemisphere so we’re heading that way anyway.
          Have your U.S. kids learn Spanish in school as soon as it is made available and then next think about Mandarin.

          Reply
        • If all you want is a ***** experience, why even bother leaving home?! You can enjoy all the lux amenities much closer to home, here in the States. On the other hand, if you want to experience something closer to reality– although not too real, mind you–I recommend Cuba. During my last five visits (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) I’ve traveled from one end of the island to the other, sampling cities and towns along the way and staying at a mix of *** and ** hoteles and some casa particulares. Often, the provincial *** and ** hoteles are the same price as casa particulares, but of course it is great staying with a family, and of course the food is much better (although i’ve had some excellent meals at paladares–and even a few state restaurants). Only once, with my wife and daughters, did we stay at a ***** venue; although it was great, we felt too isolated, and after a couple of days transferred to a nearby *** where we could enjoy the company of Cuban families (who at the time could only come to the pool and restaurant, before the end of “tourist aparteid”). Incidentally, when booked in advance through an on-line agency many *** and ** hotels are very inexpensive, yet they have many of the amenties of an AI resort, including swimming pools, manicured grounds, on-site restaurants, gift shops, cafes, etc. etc. For those who make the effort, Cuba is a very affordable destination, one that offers positive memorable experiences. During my most recent trip, besides r/t air fare on a Canadian charter (a real bargain!), I spent only a couple thousand for a two month stay. (Oh, yes, I did have some of those “real experiences,” such as having to get up at 4:30 a.m. to take a bus into Habana so I could wait in line at the emigration office in the Vedado in order to extend my visa, then doing it all over again when they wouldn’t extend it as long as I was staying at an “illegal” casa!)Hence, I found a nearby ** hotel for the remainder of my stay.

          Reply
        • 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.
          Expert,
          Stay in the States
          Abroad, you’ll only be one more Ugly American .

          Reply
      • The foreign partners may have their headquarters in Spain, or France, or Canada, but the majority controlling ownership has their headquarters in the Cuban Defence Ministry. The Cuban Army owns the controlling interest in every resort hotel in Cuba.

        Reply
        • HMMMMM!
          I wonder why the Cuban government insisted on having a majority share of every foreign venture in Cuba.
          After all, when Yanqui corporations owned the electric companies, the factories, the hotels and so much more of Cuba lock, stock and barrel , the Cubans were obviously much better off .
          I can’t understand that silly revolution business at all.
          Cubans could really be happy were Cuba to return to being
          “America’s ( read : USA) Whorehouse.

          Reply
          • Actually John your post is incorrect. You really should read up on Cuban history and the actual conditions that existed prior to the revolution instead of just making crap up. You can read up on the UN figures if you wish at your own convenience

          • At 71 years of age and having studied the Cuban revolution for some 45 of those years, I think I have a good idea of the history.
            Not being bound to capitalism or the GOUSA , I have the independence of mind to come to rational conclusions .
            Further, as an anarchist, ( anarchism is firmly based on direct democracy) I most certainly have no love for the totalitarian economic and electoral systems of Cuba either .
            The Cuban revolution did not occur because the people were well off. .
            Poverty is the cause of a great many rebellions ; witness the “Arab Spring” countries and the latest country in which the government was turned out: Yemen .
            It has a 50% unemployment rate .
            Capitalism, like religion poisons everything it touches because it instills an acceptance of totalitarian systems .
            Because I support democratic institutions and you support totalitarian institutions , I doubt we’ll ever have much meeting of the minds.
            Deal with that.

          • 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.

          • Why did the Revolution seize the assets of the 100% Cuban owned Bacardi rum distillery? They paid their workers better than the average wages. They even supported the rebels fighting against Batista. Blaming the Yanqui capitalists was an excuse. But it was not reality.

  • I would think that the blockade has not assisted them in being prepared for tourists from the US. In any case, tourists from Canada and Europe have been going to Cuba for years and enjoy themselves, returning frequently.

    Reply
  • After I visited Cuba in May of 2013 I wrote about it on this site. I included some of the experiences that I did not enjoy. Some people expressed anger that I did this. In my opinion I was helping the tourist industry in Cuba. Fair or not, there are people who can spend thousands of dollars on a vacation. Some may be in sympathy with Cuba or at least open to the Cuban experience. But many more are just looking for a good time. The Cuban tourist industry must cater to them.
    Based on what I have heard, I would still choose Cuba as a tourist destination. In my small Spanish conversation group, one retired woman travelled to Ecuador. She enjoyed the trip to the Galapagos, but within 24 hours of arriving in Quito she was assaulted by a man high on glue. A couple within our group are currently in Mexico, getting some dental work done. They can no longer enjoy Mexico in the way they once did. They avoid areas they used to travel to, because of the violence.

    Reply
  • I have stayed in the hotel Pernik and it rates only half a star !!! In Guuardavalaca and area trere are 10 resorts with + – 4000 rooms and the top is the Melia Rio de Oro – Royal Service – five star . The others rate three stars to 4.5 stars. I have stayed in nine of the resorts in Guardavalaca and my Cuban – Canadian children like the Brisas Guaradavalaca the best.
    We have a house in the closest city to Guardavalaca and Michel and Angelica Robinson attend school there.

    Reply
    • So what’s your point?

      Reply
      • Gordon never has a point except to brag about his “Cuban children”

        Reply
  • As Canadians we have been visiting Cuba for over 20 years. You do not go to Cuba for gourmet food, or shopping. If you want to escape brutal winters, and like to safely sight see on your own, relax in the warm blue water, interact with friendly locals, Cuba is the perfect destination.

    Reply
  • Great essay! I’ve been going to Cuba since 2001, Cuba has vastly improved it’s tourist infrastructure in that time, many more Casas and more notably private restaurants. I expect that many Americans aren’t going to enjoy the randomness of Cuba and be comfortable with the patience and adaptability required to find your way through Cuba. Also there is just not enough bed space yet for everybody that might want to go, especially in the resorts etc. I predict that initially, after it’s allowed for Princess etc to go there, we’re going to see the big cruise ships coming through, they can have several thousand people on board in comfort and security. If you’ve never been in other places that this happens (I live in Alaska) envision this… 2 or 3 of these behemoths pull into Havana, or Cienfuegos or Santiago and disgorge thousands of people at once and they spread out for the day in large groups buying stuff and they can scurry back to the boat and have a place to sleep and eat. It’s a nightmare scenario IMO but it seems a likely way to be able to accommodate the horde.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply

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