In the early 1900s, Cuba was one of the leading destinations for caribbean tourism, but as the Great Depression hit the United States, travel to the island country fell dramatically. By the 1960s, rising tensions between the two countries flared into multiple sanctions, effectively banning tourism in Cuba for most American travelers.
American Travelers and Cuba
Most recently, the United States and Cuba have begun to approach normalized relations once again. Although the Cuban/American border is still only open in a limited capacity, the recent easement of these regulations has caused a massive influx of American travelers over a short period of time to Havana and other surrounding cities. According to Reuter’s, Cuba hosted 3.52 million visitors in 2015 which was a 17% increase from the year before. Of that increase, 161,000 were Americans (a 77% increase from the year before).
Most tourist and hospitality infrastructure in Cuba is currently owned and managed by the Cuban government and for the past few decades has had to accommodate only a very limited number of guests. With the dramatic increase of guests, hotels are booked over a year in advance, staff members are working to check in and take care of record numbers of people, and the country is grappling with 21st century standards for hospitality.
Putting it in Perspective
To put the situation in perspective, the country has less than 70,000 hotel rooms. Total. Hotels overbook rooms, bump reservations, and often have to refuse walk-ins, sending would-be guests to find accommodations elsewhere. Many travellers are starting to turn instead toward private home stays and other accommodations like AirBnB.
However, as the tropical Cuban environment continues to attract more and more tourists, modern and luxury hotels are beginning to recognize the lack of high-end, high-touch customer service accommodations. International hotel brands will soon move into the space, hoping to take advantage of the shrinking availability of rooms. Poised for a hospitality revolution, Cuba will soon flaunt high rises, resorts, and other tropical getaways that once made Havana famous in the eyes of Americans.