The government corporation Gaviota (Spanish for “Seagull”), the leader in tourism to Cuba, announced on August 6th that it will double the number of guest rooms it offers throughout the island from 24,000 to 50,000 by the year 2020. Since its creation 27 years ago, Gaviota has been linked to the Cuban Armed Forces, and many of its executives are retired high-ranking military officials.
One of Gaviota’s most important projects is next year’s opening of a five-star hotel inside of what is known as La Manzana de Gómez (“Gómez’s City Block”), opposite Havana’s Central Park. The Swiss hotel chain Kempinski, one of the oldest in Europe, will be in charge of managing its 246 guest rooms.
During its pre-revolutionary splendor, La Manzana de Gómez was one of the most important shopping centers of the capital, but it began quickly deteriorating by the end of the 1960’s, eventually ending up in ruins. A couple of years ago, everything housed there –including a school– was relocated elsewhere. A chain link fence now encircles the building where a multitude of laborers work virtually around the clock constructing the new facilities.
Gaviota’s other plans include the 2017 reopening of the Packard Hotel with 300 guest rooms, and the Prado y Malecón Hotel in 2018 with 200 rooms. There has also been talk of remodeling the Regis, El Gran, and the Metropolitano Hotels, all located in the capital’s historic center.
Gaviota’s other projects include hotel development on Varadero Beach, Holguín Province, and the archipelago off the northern coast of Villa Clara, Ciego de Ávila, and Camagüey Provinces. Still, the main objective will be to position Havana as one of the main destinations for urban sightseeing in the Caribbean.
More than two million foreign tourists have travelled to Cuba during the first half of 2015. American tourists are the group whose presence has increased the most. So far this year, 90,000 of them entered Cuba, 54% more than during the same period in 2014.
Translated by José Badué