Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SWAT: Special Weapons and Tourism

Hotel Presidente

Here's a shot of the Hotel Presidente. TripAdvisor ranks it as 38th of 75 hotels rated in Havana. Average year-round price: $56. Recent comments include: “Don't stay at this hotel.” and “Generally OK but a few negatives.”

The Parque Central is rated No. 1. Visitors submitting comments to TripAdvisor give it four stars. Price: $262 per night.

Interestingly, no Havana hotel gets a five-star rating in TripAdvisor. I've found many Cuban hotels to be pretty decent considering the country's economic conditions. But many hotels could use more money for maintenance and better pay for workers.

Better salaries might make workers less compelled to pilfer hotel supplies, including food destined for hotel restaurants and buffet tables. But I realize hotel workers need all that more than tourists do.

Something else that sets Cuban hotels apart: Since the 1997 hotel bombings that killed an Italian tourist, many hotels began putting more effort into security than guest services. Ever wonder why you rarely see a trash can in a hotel lobby in Havana? Aesthetics could be part of it, I suppose. But I think there's more to it. When you remove the garbage cans, that's one less place to stash explosives.

In Havana, you also notice a lot of incredibly fit hotel doormen who look more like SWAT team members or special forces soldiers than ordinary hotel workers. But then I've just got a vivid imagination.

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