Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hospitality Corner

It seems the "new" Castro regime is about to announce another long-awaited economic "reform": ordinary Cubans will in future be allowed to stay in luxury hotels. In their own country.

According to media reports from Havana, hotel operators have been informed overnight that the regime plans to lift the ban, which bars Cuban citizens from staying in the best hotels and resorts on the island since they have been reserved exclusively for cash-carrying tourists.

The move is being interpreted by media observers as a positive sign that Raul Castro is serious about doing away with some of the "prohibitions" that Cubans have criticised for so long, although not too loudly, of course.

Not that anyone expects huge lines outside the Sol Melia.

Cubans, who are paid by the State in ordinary pesos, will need to pay for rooms and services in convertible pesos, which are worth about 25 times the value of the ordinary peso.

Although the right to stay in any hotel is guaranteed by the Communist Constitution, the Castro brothers imposed the ban in the early 1990s, when the regime decided to welcome capitalist tourists to the island as a way of surviving financially the spectacular collapse of the old Soviet bloc.

As this Reuters article confirms, the hotel ban has been a major source of “frustration” for Cubans, giving rise to accusations that the regime had in a place an "economic apartheid system”.

UPDATE: So, how much will it cost Cubans to stay in the luxury hotels previously reserved for tourists? According to this Associated Press article, a one-night stay at the mid-ranking Ambos Mundos Hotel, a restored hotel in central Havana that used to be a favourite of Ernest Hemingway, costs US$173.00 in high season. That's about eight times the average salary on the island.


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