News and Facts about Cuba

Cubans line up for cell phones, but fewer for hotel rooms

Cubans line up for cell phones, but fewer for rooms
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:42 AM EDT, April 15, 2008
Havana, Cuba

While hundreds of Cubans have been lining up to buy cellular phone
services previously available only to foreigners and certain state
workers, fewer are taking advantage of the lifting of the hotel ban.

The end to what government critics have called apartheid on the
communist island came quietly after midnight on March 31.

The first two weeks of the lifting of the hotel ban generated about
$378,000 for the state, according to a tourism official who asked not to
be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the foreign press.

The two-week figure included 46 Cubans who spent $5,024 on hotel stays
and eight who spent $1,763 on car rentals, the official said. Excursions
generated $61,398 in revenue.

"We believe more people will come with time," the official said. "It is
still very early."

There were no official announcements or proclamations. Hotel workers and
clerks at car rental companies said they were informed that as of
midnight that Monday Cubans could rent cars and stay at or use
facilities such as gyms in hotels across the country. The only
limitation: hard currency to pay the bill. But pricey tourist facilities
appear to be a limitation in a country where the average state workers
earns about $20 a month.

The government of has moved to lift what he has called
"excessive prohibitions" in Cuba since succeeding his ailing older
brother Fidel as in February. Cubans may now buy DVD players,
computers and other electronic goods at state-run shops, and purchase
service contracts in ther own names.,0,1538642.column

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