Skift Take

Travel executives expect the hotels to help improve visibility for the LGBTQ+ community during a period when the government is considering a family code that, if approved, would legalize civil unions among same sex couples in Cuba.

Cuba is now home to two hotels specifically geared toward members of the LGBTQ+ community, which tourism officials believe is a major step forward for a country historically hostile to that segment of its population.

“It’s a privilege to open the first hotel for the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba,” said Judith Alfonso, the MGM Muthu Hotels’ Cuba sales manager, about the launch of the five-star Gran Muthu Rainbow Hotel in Cayo Guillermo. The property, which first welcomed visitors in 2019, reopened last December after having been closed during the worst of the pandemic.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge, but (the hotel’s reopening) shows society is making progress,” Alfonso said.

Alonso added that the hotel has already attracted a large number of repeat customers, especially from both Canada and Cuba. “Those markets remain the focus of our growth strategy in the short term, while in the medium and long term, we want to target other markets such as Europe,” she said.

Travel executives are hopeful that the Gran Muthu Rainbow Hotel — as well as the Telégrafo Axel Hotel La Habana, which opened this month and is the first LGBTQ+-friendly one in the capital — will help Cuba will become a more popular location for members of the $218 billion tourism market.

“Increasing LGBTQ+ visibility through hotels and experiences does make a difference,” said International LGBTQ+ Travel Association President and CEO John Tanzella.

“Everyone wants to see themselves represented, and these actions help send a more welcoming, inclusive message that can influence travelers who are unsure about a destination.”   

Alfonso also believes the two hotels will be a boon for Cuba’s tourism industry. “Cuba has the potential to be a friendly destination for the LGBTQ+ community,” she said. “It is a very safe destination.”

But will this signal of change will be accompanied by a shift in the island’s politics?

Cuba’s horrific past regarding human rights and the LGBTQ+ community in particular have been well documented. Members of the community were sent to work camps in the 1960s for “rehabilitation,” and LGBTQ+ rights activists were among the hundreds arrested during anti-government protests last July.

Cuba only legalized same-sex sexual activity in 1979, but same-sex marriage is still illegal. However, the country approved the draft of a family code last December that could open the door to same-sex marriage and permit same-sex couples to legally adopt children.

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Tags: cuba, latin america, lgbt, LGBT travel, lgbtq

Photo credit: The Gran Muthu Rainbow Hotel is the first Cuban hotel geared toward the LGBTQ+ community Gran Muthu Rainbow