Private sector provides suitable accommodation for many tourists in Cuba

Posted: 02-Sep-16 11:40

Data released by the Cuban Ministry of Tourism in July shows that casas particulares (private homestays) are offering attractive options to tourists looking for short-stay accommodation in the Caribbean island. At present, the private sector is hosting 25 per cent of foreign visitors arriving in Cuba, which also evidences the importance tourists place on getting in touch with the locals.

Private sector provides suitable accommodation for many tourists in Cuba

Casas particulares (Spanish name for private houses) are an important pillar in the rebirth of Cuba´s tourism industry, which, as the backbone of the island´s economy, has received a major boost in the process of updating its infrastructure since 2008. Following the government´s expansion of licences granted to cuentapropistas (self-employed workers) a wide variety of services related to the tourism industry has flourished, with casas particulares profiting the most.

Now the Cuban Ministry of Tourism has acknowledged the importance of measuring the impact the private sector has had in the growth of the industry over the last two years. Secretary Manuel Marrero said in an official statement last week that the performance of private homestays and "paladares" (privately-owned restaurants) will be included in the industry´s official statistics this year.

Cuba reached the 2 million visitors figure in the first half of 2016, beating a record achieved 27 days later last year. The increasing number of visitors is closely related to the new political environment in the island after its government started to negotiate a truce with the White House in 2015, following more than five decades of tensions.

The new climate and a prospective economic and social change in Cuba are other reasons why more Americans have been rushing to visit the island. According to a report by Cuba´s Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (National Statistics Office) issued last month, nearly 72,000 U.S. citizens have touched down in the Caribbean nation in the first trimester of 2016.

While tour operators and new foreign hotel chains enter the picture and give way to new ventures and partnerships that ultimately offer more accommodation options for tourists, casas particulares continue to provide a unique experience to guests, who in the most of the cases stay with families sharing common areas and meal times.

In 2015, around 555,000 holidaymakers stayed in casas particulares. Data released by the Ministry of Tourism says that there are 160,000 rooms available for tourists in the private sector.

However, the industry´s infrastructure and its development in Cuba is still very poor, especially when taking into account the rapid growth rate in the number of visitors. Booking systems are precarious, even when Airbnb and other foreign companies have already started to facilitate things for tourists, providing them with modern services and direct online booking platforms.

Sometimes it can prove be very difficult to get a room in casas particulares across the island, as they can be booked to full capacity for weeks. But still, they remain a highly popular and desirable option among tourists; with owners and hosts providing more personalised services, and hosting Cuban families being very open to showing tourists Cuban culture and traditions, as well as tips on how to make the most of their time on the island.


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