Postcard from... Havana


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Salsa music and cigar smoke swirl round the grand courtyard of the Hotel Nacional, and guests enjoy stunning views over the “Malecon” promenade and the ocean beyond.

But inside, many of its rooms are shabby and musty, the Wi-Fi is costly and weak, customer service is often indifferent, and the food, while plentiful, is generally dull. Although Havana is loaded with charm, great music and architectural jewels, there is a shortage of quality hotel rooms and restaurants, hire cars, taxis and other services. Tour operators hope a fledgling detente between Cuba and the US will lure hundreds of thousands of tourists to enjoy the island’s once forbidden fruits: its white beaches, colonial cities, fine cigars and rum, and the vintage American cars on its streets. They also know that Cuba has to improve its offering.

“There are four or five really nice hotels in Havana which you can count on for a really quality experience, and I think that needs to increase five or six-fold,” said Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel. Even with a revival of market-style reforms in Cuba and investment from Canadian and European hotel companies, the country is not ready for a significant surge in tourism. REUTERS