Monday,  January 27, 2020  4:50 am

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

“We are ready to receive Canadians:" Cuba and Gaviota look ahead to strong winter
From left: Eloy Govea, director, Cuba Tourist Board; Tania Lopez Larroque, Consul General of Cuba; Carlos Miguel Latuff Carmenate, CEO, Gaviota; Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez, vice-president marketing, Gaviota; Juan Carlos Soto Garcia, president, Hola Sun Holidays.
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 new and renovated properties waiting for visitors to enjoy, Cuba is projecting a strong winter season thanks in large part to Canadian arrivals.

Many of those hotels were represented last night at a Toronto reception hosted by Cuba’s Gaviota Group, providing agents with property updates and a glimpse of the upcoming sun season. Thirteen hotel chains with properties managed or owned by Gaviota were represented at the event, including chains such as Iberostar, Melia, Ocean and Sercotel.

“We are ready to receive Canadians to our new properties in Cuba – it’s like a second home for many Canadians!” said Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez, Gaviota’s vice-president of marketing.

READ MORE: Plans for 7,000 new rooms in Cuba before 2025, Gaviota says

Major expansion

Rodriguez told PAX that Cuba’s inventory of hotel rooms is set to expand by more than 7,000 hotel rooms by 2025, including several new opening this year. The plans include:

  • The newly opened 321-room luxury Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard
  • The debut of the 250-room Paseo del Prado Hotel, opening in 2019
  • The ongoing launch of numerous modern-style hotels, through 2021
  • The renovation of the Grand Hotel, Hotel Regis, Palacio Cueto and the Marquis of Monte Hermoso
  • Several 2020 openings, including two Cayo Santa Maria properties: La Salina Noreste with 633 rooms and La Salina Suroeste with 621 rooms.

It’s welcome news to Canadian tour operators.

Juan Carlos Soto Garcia, president of Hola Sun Holidays, told PAX that with so many Canadians travelling to Cuba each winter, travellers are looking for something different. To that end, Soto Garcia said that the company is actively promoting city stays such as those in Havana in addition to already-popular beach destinations such as Cayo Santa Maria and Varadero.

“It’s very good news,” he said. “Varadero is moving well, as are Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria, but we’re also pushing the cities, because Cuba has been developing beautiful boutique hotels. It’s something new but very interesting for Canadians.”

Juan Carlos Soto Garcia, president of Hola Sun Holidays

Going wireless

Rodriguez also updated attendees on the status of Wi-Fi internet at Gaviota’s properties, an ongoing project which will eventually see the service installed at all of the company’s hotels. Currently, Gaviota is on track to add Wi-Fi to all of its Cayo Santa Maria properties this winter.

A strong winter projected

Eloy Govea, director of the Cuba Tourist Board, told PAX that despite the quick repairs made following last year’s hurricane season, tourism numbers still suffered. However, if September is any indication, Cuba is set to enjoy a very strong winter.

“We’ve had eight or nine rough months after last year’s hurricane season, but it was all perception: people were concerned but Cuba was completely back on its feet within two months," Govea said.

“I’m very happy to report that for September, our visitor numbers are not only better than September 2017 but also September 2016! The forecast for the winter is showing a more than five per cent increase from 2016-17.”

Eloy Govea, director, Cuba Tourist Board (left) & Frank Pais Oltuski Rodriguez, vice-president marketing, Gaviota