A conversation with Melia Hotels on Cuba
By Alexander Britell
How will the recent US-Cuba rapprochement change tourism in Cuba? And what does it mean for the hotel companies that are already operating in Cuba? To answer these questions, Cuba Journal caught up with Francisco Camps, the subdirector general of Spain’s Melia Hotels International, which operates 27 hotels in Cuba and how it’s making that number even larger.
How has Melia been so successful with its hotel product in Cuba?
Our chain’s President, Gabriel Escarrer, emphasized in his last stay at the island [in May] that Meliá Hotels International set up in this country “and made itself at home,” and he offered assurance that this was “an act of faith and permanence,” which is evidenced by the 27 hotels that the company currently operates on the largest archipelago in the Caribbean and he reiterated his commitment to Cuba. Meliá Hotels International and Cuba have 25 years of history hand by hand ; On 10th of May 1990 , the first hotel of Meliá , Sol Palmeras , opened its doors in Varadero. Since then, 25 years have passed and today the Spanish company manages 27 seven hotels located in eight of the best destinations on the island with almost 13.000 rooms in all.
Above: Melia’s Tryp Cayo Coco hotel in Cuba
Several reasons can be mentioned: a strategic vision , a solid management system, the company´s reputation and recognition on an international level, a constant progress in improving profitability and financial results, a diversified business model and specifically in Cuba the values developed by MHI, training professionals and the contribution of tourism industry bound to a good and professional relationship between Cuba and the Spanish chain and have led to a very fruitful results.
How would you describe the state of tourism in Cuba today?
Cuba is the paradise and the government recognizes the importance of tourism to the island. While Canada continues to provide the greatest amount of tourists, Cuba is looking to expand its popularity to new markets and new segments, diversifying services and sources. The New York Times published its list of 52 list places to visit, and Cuba was the second destination suggested. Cuba keeps developing its tourism industry as it has a great potential.
Above: the Melia Cohiba in Havana
What impact will the US-Cuba diplomatic relations have on tourism in Cuba?
Of course it is a key moment for the history of relations between Cuba and the USA and we are glad for it.
How will that impact Melia?
Again I am going to answer this question with our president’s words : “This exciting time ahead of us will undoubtedly lead to greater presence in Cuba and a greater contribution to its tourism development, as well as an improvement in our company performance.”
What projects is Melia working on in Cuba right now?
There are a series of new developments at our hotels and resorts in accordance with client preferences and requirements. Recently during the FitCuba [conference], we announced the opening of our 28th property in Cuba for the end of 2017 : Meliá Varadero Internacional, renovating the iconic Hotel Internacional in this famous 20 kilometers long beach. The five-star hotel will be equipped with 934 guestrooms divided into two areas: one for families and another for Adults-Only.
“It is a key moment for the history of relations between Cuba and the USA and we are glad for it.
The Adults-Only portion will feature 421rooms, of which 90 will feature the exclusive The Level service. The family section, in turn, with 513 rooms will feature 133 dedicated to luxury for this important segment. The offerings for tourists are rounded out by the traditional Casa del Habano, a Yhi Spa and a Convention Center measuring 1325 square meters with 10 meeting rooms.
Above: Paradisus Varadero
With the aim of enhancing the luxury product and positioning our hotels more highly among this this exclusive segment of market, we will be about to announce a new project in Cayo Santa María, a natural paradise: Paradisus Cayo Santa María. And our Paradisus Varadero, a luxury family resort is soon to benefit from a Family Concierge , an exclusive and personalized service for all the family.
What makes travel to Cuba special?
Believe me , Cuba is like no other place on earth. It has everything to enjoy an authentic holiday. We are not only talking about exotic beaches and fascinating old cities but the Cuban people are extremely friendly and expressive — the sensual and contagious Cuban rhythms , its famous cigars , the old cars in the streets, the astonishing colonial architecture and the amazing history of this marvelous largest island in the Caribbean ; and, very important too, Cuba is a very safe country.