Travellers hoping to hop over to Cuba this year have been warned that there won’t be enough hotel beds for everyone, as trip bookings to the Caribbean island have soared. Luxury UK tour operator Western & Oriental revealed that it has seen unprecedented demand so far this year, with bookings for January already up 150% year on year. The company said hotel shortages are particularly bad in Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos, as well as popular rural areas such as the bucolic Viñales valley. The situation is expected to significantly worsen if the US travel ban is lifted in the near future.
An “unprecedented” surge of interest in Cuba is being claimed by luxury operator Western & Oriental with a warning of a lack of hotel accommodation to meet the anticipated demand.
This follows last week’s announcement of a relaxing in regulations to make it easier for US citizens to visit the island.
The operator claims bookings for January are already up 150% year-on-year, but the increase in interest in Cuba has been growing since last year.
Head of product David Pointer hailed the spike in demand as being ‘Fidel Friday’ in recognition of the former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
“February and March is already fairly full for Havana due to the lack of bed stock, so when demand increases from the US this will become a bigger problem and I am sure we will see prices increase – which is why people are keen to firm up their holidays now,” Pointer said.
“There are a number of new hotel developments happening in Havana at the moment, but this will only take the pressure of the current demand. Once the US rules are relaxed further and there are no travel restrictions in place for US residents, the capacity issue will just get worse.
Beach destinations currently have availability as a number of charter operations from the UK reduced their airlift to the island.
But the main concern is Havana and the rural areas such as Vinales, Trinidad and Cienfuegos, where there is “very limited” bed stock, according to the operator.
Meanwhile, Rahul Aggarwal, Cuba specialist at Travel The Unknown, said: “The recent announcement of thawing relations between the US and Cuba will be music to many Cubans’ ears.
“President Obama plans to ease travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba; up to now only US travellers booking with licensed US travel agencies running people-to-people programmes were allowed to visit for tourism purposes.
“Most visitors to the island are Cuban expats living in the US and travellers from Europe and Canada.
“If travel restrictions are fully lifted then hordes of tourists are likely to arrive from the US and prices will inevitably shoot up due to a surge in demand.
“Cuba’s unique economic and political situation has meant so far it has not succumbed to globalisation in the same way as can be seen in most countries around the world.
“People have been travelling to Cuba to experience its old world charm, ride in vintage American cars, wander around its colourful cobbled plazas, and of course soak up the Caribbean weather.
“I would strongly advise anyone thinking of visiting to get there quick as there are signs the face of Cuba is about to change very rapidly.”
The Explorer will be Regent’s first new ship since the debut of the line’s 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner more than a decade ago. Like those vessels, the Explorer will be an all-suite ship. Only a handful of luxury lines, including Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Silversea Cruises, offer all-suite ships.
Reservations for the Explorer’s maiden voyage and inaugural season opened to members of Regent’s Seven Seas Society on Monday. The general public can begin making bookings on Feb. 4.
The ceremony – a shipbuilding custom that dates back hundreds of years – traditionally has signified the official start of construction of a seagoing vessel and is a major milestone.
“With construction beginning in earnest today, we took a major step closer to realizing our vision to provide our guests with a vessel that will be hailed as the most luxurious ship ever built,” Regent president and COO Jason Montague said at the event.