Sunday, December 18, 2016

Selected Cuba accommodations for the discerning traveler

In May of 2015, I wrote a blog post titled "Short- and long-term implications of US-Cuba travel liberalization for Caribbean tourist destinations" wherein I posited:
  • In the short term, a slow but steady increase in the number of US tourits visiting Cuba
  • Displacement of European and Canadian tourists by US tourists if liberalization accelerated
  • US tourists will demand higher levels of service than the OECD tourists they will be displacing 
  • A need for between 98,000 and 116,000 additional hotel rooms, in the longer term, to support the potential 3.2 million yearly US tourists.
In my recent trip to Cuba, I kept an eye open for currently available accomodations with which these higher-services-demanding US tourists would be comfortable.

Accomodations on the island currently fall into two categories: Hotels and casas particulares. The casas particulares came about as a part of the government's "initiative" to allow private ownership of selected types of businesses and allows a homeowner to rent a part of the home to a visitor. This type of accomodation varies all over the map in terms of consistency of service and location, is relatively bare-boned, and has limited applicability to the non-adventurous US traveler.

More to the liking of this type of tourist will be the hotels located to the west of the old town and currently grouped around the area close to the beginning of the Malecon, the 5-mile-long boulevard that stretches from Vedadao to Old Havana. I will share some pictures of two of these establishments in this post.

Traveling in from the airport to Havana, my eyes soaked in the countryside of this heretofore unvisited land. And everywhere you looked, you saw signs of disrepair: the cars; the buses; the buildings; and the people. After about a 40-minute ride, we arrived at a reasonably modern-looking structure, our hotel for the duration, the Tryp Habana Libre. This hotel is one of three in the area currently managed by the Meliá Hotel Group. The hotel's location is indicated on the map below.

Tryp Habana Libre had been owned by the Hilton Group, under the name Hotel Habana Hilton, before being expropriated by Fidel Castro . The hotel became Fidel's HQ when he entered Havan ain January 1959 and was eventually nationalized, along with all other US hotels, in October 1960.

The hotel has a total of 25 floors with standard accomodations below the 20th floor and executive-level accomodations on floors 20 and above. These two groups both have separate check-in and breakfast facilities. The hotal has seven associated restaurants and a pool on the topmost floor. The pictures immediately below were taken in our room and show, in my opinion, the type of accomodation that a discerning traveler would be comfortable with.

In addition to Tryp Habana Libre, we spent a fair amount of time at the Hotel Nacional, the 85-year-old luxury hotel that sits on a hill on the Malecon in Vedado and affords absolutely beautiful view of sunsets, the ocean, and people, both on the Malecon and on the hotel grounds. Some pictures of/from the Malecon follow.

Hotel Nacional from the upper dining room at Tryp Habana Libre

Jesse Jackson -- contemplating the future at
Hotel Nacional 

Dining Room at Hotel Nacional

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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