Testimonial for Gaviota Travel Mart
Written by Dragan Tomas
Geographer & Travel Consultant
As a result of an invitation from Gaviota Tours, I spent the beginning of October on the largest Caribbean island; Cuba.
Tourism is something that the Cuban people have finally embraced as the brightest spot of their economy and a new wave of tourism is beginning in Cuba. As the largest island in the Caribbean with a population of 11.2 million people and beach weather that lasts 11 out of 12 months of the year, it is an ideal destination for relaxation. The infrastructure in Cuba has been improved in recent years and it now boasts 10 international airports, 1000 km of highways, and 3 new ports that can accept even large cruise ships of over 5000 passengers (which however is currently still under review due to USA embargo). During this visit, the minister of tourism informed us that this has been the first year where Cuba has broken the milestone of over 5 million tourist visitors and they will reach approximately 5.2 million by the end of the year. Canadians make up the majority of these visitors (just under 1.5 million) with a distant last place being Germany (300k) and France, Italy, and England behind them. This year marks the first year that more Canadians have visited Cuba than Mexico and this may be due to the incredible safety record that Cuba has. Previous travelers have complained about a lack of 5 star hotels, sub optimal service at times, and restricted selection cuisine. The tourist board has been working hard to remedy these issues and in addition to the construction of a 5 star hotel in every major destination, they have also committed to 500 brand new tourist buses to optimize the transfer experience from airport to hotel.
The Melia International hotel in Varadero has just completed construction and is a world class hotel with 960 rooms and amazing beachfront access. In Havana, the Hotel So Prado Malecon recently opened in a prime location next to the Malecon and boasts a 360 degree view of Havana from it’s rooftop lounge. You get all the flavors of Havana from this vantage point; Miramar to the West, Old Havana to the south, the marina to the east, and Florida to the north. The Iberostar Packard was also recently opened across the street and it boasts an impressive array of amenities which includes an infinity pool. In addition to new world class hotels, there remain smaller hotels in a great location: Iberostar Parque Central, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, along with some great 4 star offerings such as Sevilla, and Saratoga. Of course there is always the classic Hotel Nacional De Cuba. Old Town Havana has embarked on a renovation that preserves its historical old world charm while updating the infrastructure to a 21st century standard. The middle of November will ring in the 500th anniversary of Havana which will be a celebration the likes of which the country has never seen before.