Tuesday,  July 14, 2020  11:31 am

Cuba's Gaviota “betting on Havana” with hotel expansion plans

Cuba's Gaviota “betting on Havana” with hotel expansion plans
Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez, vice-president marketing, Gaviota; Eloy Govea, director, Cuba Tourist Board; Carlos Miguel Latuff Carmenate, CEO, Gaviota.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

With celebrations commemorating Havana’s 500th anniversary throughout 2019, Cuba’s Gaviota Tourism Group is putting a special emphasis on the capital city as an ambitious hotel expansion plan enters its second year.

Representatives from the hotel management company and the Cuba Tourist Board met with travel media in Toronto yesterday (which will be followed by a Montreal event today) to provide updates on a plan to add more than 7,000 hotel rooms throughout Cuba by 2025.

READ MORE: “We are ready to receive Canadians:" Cuba and Gaviota look ahead to strong winter

Gaviota CEO Carlos Miguel Latuff Carmenate told PAX that in 2019, several of the new hotels to be managed and/or operated by Gaviota will be in Havana: these include the reopening of the 218-room Prado & Malecón Hotel, in partnership with AccorHotels; the renovated Hotel Palacio Cueto in Old Havana; and the boutique Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno, offering just 15 rooms in the city’s historic centre. These latest Havana openings follow the launch of the 321-room Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard in 2018, which welcomed its first guests last fall.

We’re betting on Havana,” Latuff said. “We need to have a presence there, as we believe that over the next few years, it will be hard to find anyone not wanting to visit the city!”

Outside of Havana, several other hotels will open in 2019, including the debut of the LGBT-focused Grand Muthu Rainbow Beach with MGM Muthu in Cayo Santa Maria and the International Melia Varadero Hotel.

In Cayo Cruz, a destination that Cuba will be promoting in 2019, new properties will include H10 Hotels’ Ocean Arena Blanca and the Gaviota-managed La Marina, a 67-room boutique property.

Eloy Govea, director - Canada, Cuba Tourist Board

Connecting Cuba

Gaviota’s Havana hotels will also be the next to receive an overhaul in wi-fi connectivity in the company’s bid to upgrade internet access for guests at all of its properties.

Latuff told PAX that with wireless upgrades completed at its Cayo Santa Maria properties (the first phase of the project), the focus will now shift to providing wi-fi at its Havana and Varadero hotels, with Cayo Coco and Holguin properties scheduled for 2020 and 2021.

Markets on the grow

While Latuff said that European and Asian markets are among the fastest-growing, Canada will remain central to Cuba’s tourism strategy, particularly in Havana, as the Cuba Tourist Board continues to market the capital as a destination for Canadians who want to explore Cuba beyond the beach.

According to Eloy Govea, director of the Cuba Tourist Board of Canada, Canadian visitation is on track for another strong year, with 2019 Canadian arrivals growing 8.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2019. In both 2018 and 2017, Canadian arrivals to Cuba topped 1 million.

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