Flood of tourists fill Cuban hotels to full capacity

Posted: 19-May-16 08:00

With millions of new tourists and travellers expected to head to Cuba this year, local hotels are struggling to keep up with the demand. The race is on to build additional accommodation and expand Havana's airport to handle the large crowds eager to experience the rich culture of a once forbidden destination, for Americans at least.

Flood of tourists fill Cuban hotels to full capacity

Ever since the United States and Cuba began normalising relations in late 2014 American travellers have joined those from all over the world yearning to journey to a destination that was once off limits for the island´s closest northern neighbours.

According to a recent article published on Skift, a website known for analysing global travel trends, the uptick of travellers has resulted in a sharp increase in prices, as well as some hotels already booked solid through to the end of 2016.

The article, attributed to Marc Frank for Reuters, explains that 3.5 million visitors landed in Cuba in 2015. Frank writes the record number of travellers is leading to sharp price hikes at existing hotels. While he notes new hotels are currently under construction, more travellers are expected to push the limits even more when U.S. commercial airline service begins later this year.

Quoting Cuban Minister Manuel Marrero, the article reveals that three additional hotels are currently under construction in Havana’s colonial section. In addition, there are bids to renovate some current buildings to transform them into hotels and additional accommodation is in the planning stages. To add to this, Cuban officials say that Havana’s airport is due for expansion soon.

As construction forges ahead, Frank points out that travellers may see higher prices and sell-outs. Accor, a French hospitality company, credits the rise in European tourists, as well. Employee Eric Peyre says they tracked a 60 per cent increase in European travellers over the first four months of 2016.

Peyre says one of the hotels Accor manages in Cuba, the Hotel Seville in Old Havana, is booked up through the end of the year and those who are getting reservations are paying more.

“Last year, a room and breakfast at the Seville cost $120, this year $180, and starting November it will cost $280.”

Mostly, the article suggests, travellers have been converging on the capital city, with visits up 37 per cent already this year. Frank credits this to the majority of American travellers spending most of their time in Havana due to the somewhat restrictive travel regulations that still prevent pure beach resort style American tourism in Cuba.

Still, though, the higher cost is not driving away travellers. The article also quotes Minister Marrero in saying that nearly 50 per cent of tourists who travelled to the island nation in 2015 had previously travelled there before.

Marrero also tells Frank that the number of visitors to Cuba already for 2016 is up 13.5 per cent, totalling 1.5 million people. He estimates that Americans accounted for 94,000 of those travellers, up 93 per cent from the year before. In addition, he says that 115,000 of those same travellers in the first part of 2016 were Cuban-Americans.


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