News »

History and culture at Cuba’s Hotel Nacional

Hotel NacionalConsidered an eminent institution of Cuban history and culture, the Hotel Nacional, which has reached 88 years since its founding, is joining festivities for Havana’s 500th anniversary.

“The capital is celebrating its 500th birthday and one of its symbols is this hotel. We must therefore rise to the occasion. On Havana’s 500th anniversary, the Nacional will be lit up and shining,” the hotel’s Manager, Antonio Martínez Rodríguez, said during a press conference.

According to Martínez, the hotel, inaugurated December 30, 1930, exemplifies glamour and luxury, but its history, culture and cubania continue to grow as its principal strengths.

The institution is ready for the occasion, and will be adding a special show honoring the Cuban capital, in its celebrated Cabaret Parisien. Likewise planned are improvements to rooms and the restoration of several halls and public areas.

The effort is also intended to continue conservation of the building’s heritage value, recognized by all who visit. Declared a National Monument and listed on UNESCO’s Memoryof the WorldRegister, on display in the hotel’s garden are cannons from the former Santa Clara battery, declared World Heritage, and featured in its Hall of Fame are photographs of many of the celebrated figures who have stayed here or visited since the 1930s.


The Hotel Nacional is the only five-star facility in the country with a 100% Cuban administration, which has won, for 14 consecutive years, a World Travel Award, considered the tourist industry’s Oscar. Retaining this recognition – and the 2018 Certificate of Excellence granted by TripAdvisor, based on the million positive comments about the hotel posted on the website – is a challenge for the staff.

The hotel’s accomplishments, beyond the awards, are apparent. Surveys conducted of clients indicate that among the reasons travelers choose the Nacional are its enchanting attributes, as well as the hospitality and professionalism of those working here.

According to Antonio Martínez, in 2018, the number of guests increased by 12% as compared to previous years, with an average occupation rate of 80% and guests coming from many countries, predominately Latin American and European. Nonetheless, more than a few problems required an effort to overcome.

The Nacional serves as a venue for important cultural events like the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus Alvarez
“In 2018, we swam against the current. Our main market, which is the U.S. market (representing 60% of the hotel’s guests), suffered the impact of measures implemented by the Trump administration,” Martínez explained.After the travel warnings regarding Cuba, issued by the State Department in 2017, and the tightening of the blockade in 2018, visits from the U.S. fell by more than 10%.According to Martínez, 2018 was a year in which the hotel was obliged to reinvent itself. Events forced the Nacional, which has always attracted the most U.S. guests of any hotel on the island, “to look for new formulas to avoid economic and financial deterioration.” One of these, he reported, was to promote online sales.

“Until this time, the majority of tourists arrived through travel agencies, which we were able to turn around, with half of the reservations now being made via internet, this way reaching clients in Germany, England, Canada, Mexico, and Colombia,” Martínez explained.

Thanks to the initiative, the Hotel Nacional closed 2018 with more guests than the previous year, totaling more than 200,000 guest-days, representing an increase of 12%. Income reached 26 million dollars and earnings around 17 million. According to the manager, these results have made the hotel one of the country’s most efficient. Another noteworthy accomplishment was maintenance completed in almost all of its 426 rooms, various halls, and common areas, without interrupting operations, an effort Martínez described as reflecting the staff’s commitment and sense of ownership.


During 2018, the Hotel Nacional hosted several important events, including the International Wine Festival; the 23rd edition of MITM Americas; and the recently held International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.Along with these were numerous scientific, cultural, economic, and gastronomic gatherings. Likewise, the emblematic facility hosted the visits of numerous heads of state and government, and other figures.

Immersed now in the traditional high season and beginning 2019, workers at the Hotel Nacional are projecting a good year. In addition to celebrating Havana’s 500th anniversary, the staff is intent upon making sure every guest enjoys the building’s architectural features and unique attributes reflecting past eras, a symbol of a marvelous, living city.


Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. The mandatory fields are marked. *