Travel Courier
Issue Date: Oct 04, 2018

Old meets new in Cuba’s capital

Gaviota upbeat about luxury Havana hotels


(Photo above: A Cuba delegation in Toronto included Xavier Destribats, Kempinski’s chief operating officer for the Americas; Villanueva; Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez and Carlos Latuff Carmenate of Gaviota; Govea; Mariela Zaldivar and Luis Jimenez Ayala of Iberostar; and Marti Aragones of Melia Cuba.)

Something old, something new…

Cuba’s Gaviota Tourism Group has put a new face on an Old Havana landmark that it says adds another upscale dimension to the Cuban capital.
Gaviota’s vice-president of marketing Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez told a Toronto audience last week that developments for the Cuban tourism powerhouse include the just-opened 321-room Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard, which Gaviota says provides a “new standard of luxury” in Havana. The building itself dates back to 1911, but the now-Iberostar property underwent a major renovation prior to its opening.
The arrival of the swank hotel isn’t concerning Xavier Destribats, Kempinski’s chief operating officer for the Americas. Kempinski earlier opened the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, another five-star retreat in the Cuban capital. Destribats told another Toronto audience he welcomes the Iberostar Grand Packard’s arrival, saying competition serves Havana’s hotel trade well.
Pais Oltuski Rodriguez said that Gaviota now has more than 30,000 rooms throughout the country, representing almost half of the entire Cuban room inventory.
Gaviota is growing at a rate of over 12% a year and plans call for the addition of 7,000 more rooms before 2025 as demand for Cuban hotel rooms grows.
Cuban tourism authorities note there’s widespread hotel development in their country. “Practically in every destination in Cuba we have new properties,” Nieves Ricardo of the Cuba Tourist Board’s Toronto office told a later Toronto gathering.
Other developments cited by Pais Oltuski Rodriguez include the continuing roll-out of WiFi in all areas of its Santa Maria Hotels and WiFi’s eventual extension to all Gaviota properties.
Hotel brands falling under the Gaviota banner include Meliá, Iberostar, Blue Diamond, Valentin Hotels, Kempinski, Banyan Tree, Sercotel, MGM Muthu and Accor.
Meanwhile, Pais Oltuski Rodriguez said his homeland has fully recovered from Hurricane Irma, which battered parts of northern Cuba last fall. “There’s no reason for tourists to be nervous [about encountering possible hurricane damage].”
Tourism officials report that hotels that were forced to undertake post-Irma repairs used the opportunity to upgrade.
“Two months later, everything was fine,” Rafael Villanueva of BlueDiamond Resorts’ Cuban operation said of the recovery.
Eloy Govea, who oversees the Cuba Tourist Board’s English-Canada office, predicts this winter’s visitations will be up 5% from two winters ago. “We are very confident we’re going to have a tremendous winter.”