The Grand Packard Hotel: A Memorable Experience
Nestled in a privileged area of Old Havana and at just a stone’s throw from the right side of the Havana Bay, the new Grand Packard Hotel stands tall, under the management of Iberostar Hotels & Resorts.
As we speak, this Spanish company manages 7,881 rooms scattered in 19 hotels. The company also runs four other joint ventures on the island nation, plus the Logística Hotelera del Caribe (LHC) at the Mariel Special Development Zone.
The Grand Packard Hotel is a five-star high-end lodge boasting 321 comfortable rooms. It also has several gourmet restaurants, beauty salon, medical station, gym, spa, meeting rooms or events, as well as and a breathtaking edge pool on the fourth floor with water at a constant temperature of 28 degrees Celsius.
In its varied spaces, lobby, restaurants and galleries, the hotel shows an excellent decoration inspired in the 1940s vintage cars. On the basis of this experience, the hotel has set up a well-preserved 1942 Packard car for the exclusive use of its guests. Its housing block, from the fifth floor up, provides a jaw-dropping view of the bay and its system of colonial fortresses.
It’s no doubt a hotel surrounded by stories. Its magnificent location is based in one of Havana’s most history-laden areas, beginning with the moment when Spanish Governor General Miguel Tacon ordered to build a huge building to be used as a prison on the premises back in 1835
Photo 1. The Tacon jailhouse in the late 19th century (Source: Photo archives of the Havana Historian Office)
According to historian Juan de las Cuevas, the building’s main façade was formerly overlooking the Castillo de La Punta square and the entrance of the bay channel. The building was an 80-yard rectangle along the front, 140 yards along the background and had two 9-yard floors with a central courtyard hemmed in by cells large enough to accommodate 2,000 inmates.
In the second half of the 19th century, the governor commissioned the landscaping of the environment, featuring large and lavish neoclassical buildings that eventually replaced the oldest, baroque and colonial-style edifices.
In the early 20th century, on the heels of the U.S. intervention and following the defeat of the Spanish Army and Navy in eastern Cuba, Havana and these surrounding lots served as makeshift camping grounds for the U.S. troops, especially the 10th Infantry Battalion. (Photo 2)
Photo 2. Tent camp of the 10th U.S. Army’s Infantry Battalion in 1899. In the background, the Castillo del Morro, USS Chester steam-powered vessel and the Neptune statue. Source: University of Virginia Library Collection.
As the first decade of the 20th century rolled on, the Biscuit Hotel opened (Photo 3). The Paseo del Prado was the first paved street in Havana, a true event for the time, hence cars quickly started riding up and down the avenue. On the corner of Carcel Street, the Packard & Cunnighamm automobile agency set up shop, a reason why the Grand Packard Hotel now showcases a 1942 black-painted Packard car for guests to feast eyes on.
Photo 3: The Biscuit Hotel in 1925, a picture taken by the American Photo Studies (Source: University of Virginia Library Collection)
In those distant years, on the corner of Malecón and Prado avenues, the former Miramar Hotel hanged out its shingle only to become the Miramar Garden later on, a gathering center for the Havana youth of the time to dance and have a ball.
Today, the Sofitel Paseo del Prado Hotel is being built on that corner. With 250 rooms and managed by French hotel company Accor, it will beef up the luxury accommodation offer in the capital, which began in June 2017 with the opening of the Grand Manzana Kempinski Hotel.
These hotels, run by Cuba’s Gaviota Group, account not only for a commitment to Havana on its 500th anniversary, and respect for its past and present, but also for a commitment to excellence, quality and customer experience. It is meant to maintain the Cuban heritage and deliver an authentic experience, that combines the property’s original architecture with modern innovation, technology and luxury.
Maximizing the total customer experience is what creates value added and generates preferences. It is not only the rational elements that generate the client's commitment, but also the emotional bond of the experience that transforms the products and services into something memorable. Those unconscious sensations are the ones that lure guests, not only in terms of them, but also as far as their friends and relatives are concerned.
Havana City historian Eusebio Leal has beamingly said that “the true, the great, the fundamental thing is that every human action ought to be backed by a great idea, and great ideas can seem to the deluded and even appear like dreams to a stranger, but the dream is utopia, and utopia is mankind’s maximum aspiration. When there is no dream, the human being has simply ceased to exist.”