Spanish Hoteliers Keep the Crosshairs on Cuba’s Varadero
The Spanish hotel chains entered to the Cuban Varadero Beach over two decades ago and they are still betting on the famous resort, especially now that the relations between the island and the United States are experiencing a significant decline.
Large international chains such as Melia or Iberostar Hotels manage several tourism facilities in the so-called Blue Beach, located about 120 kilometers east of Havana, while they plan their expansion to the center and east of the island.
"Our chain has opted for Varadero because it is really worthwhile and because it is very well suited to the characteristics of Melia for tourism, which is healthy, sustainable, safe and full of natural and cultural attractions," Zahily Alzola, vice-director of quality at the "Las Americas" Melia Hotel, told Xinhua.
That installation has 340 rooms, with a predomination of Canadian vacationers, many of them repeating, who flee from the harsh winter in their country and look at the main Cuban resort as an annual resting point.
Melia was the first tourism company that did business in Cuba and today has a dozen hotels in Varadero, such as the Melia Las Americas, which it manages and sells on behalf of the joint-venture between the Spanish group Cubacan and the Cuban state company Cubanacan.
The manager recognizes that the U.S. market is very attractive to any tourism business, but she is aware that the restrictions imposed by the White House on Americans prevent their presence as tourists in Cuba.
"It depends on the political willingness of their government that the American tourists might enjoy the beauties of Cuba and especially the kindness of the Cuban people," says Alzola.
Americans are forbidden to travel to Cuba as tourists and can only reach the island under 12 categories dictated by the U.S. State Department.
Iberostar is another Spanish chain with a strong presence in Varadero, where they have five high-standard hotels, and now they plan to reach other points on the island with the opening of new facilities.
"Iberostar is not only betting on Varadero, but on growing in the whole country," says Ana Beatriz Riscali, general director of the Hotel Iberostar Varadero.
Riscali explains that there will be upcoming openings in Havana and that they also point towards the east of the island, where they expect to attract Canadian, British and German tourists who make up the main market on the island of Iberostar.
She pointed out that the roll back in the relations between Cuba and the United States did not represent very much for the chain, because "the Latin market has grown a lot and we now have a strong presence from Argentina and Chile."
Just two weeks ago, Varadero ranked third in the list of the best beaches in the world, according to the Travelers' Choice 2018 awards, organized by the largest travel website TripAdvisor, which gathers the opinions of millions of users of different nationalities over the past 12 months.
Varadero has currently 52 hotels, according to data released last November by the Ministry of Tourism.
Cuba received some 4,700,000 international visitors last year, and expects to receive five million tourists in 2018 for the first time.