By Marc Frank | Reuters
Cuba has lifted a ban on its nationals staying at hotels that were reserved exclusively for foreigners, hotel employees said on Monday.
It was the latest step to liberalize the communist-run state under new President Raul Castro, who has ended bans on Cubans buying computers, DVD players and cellular telephones.
“Anyone can stay at hotels as of midnight last night, as long as they have ID and the money to pay for a room,” said the night porter at the Chateau Miramar hotel in western Havana.
Employees at several hotels owned by Spanish chain Sol Melia confirmed this. Cubans can also rent cars and use other tourist facilities previously limited to foreigners, industry sources said.
The ban on staying in hotels at tropical beach resorts was a source of frustration for Cubans since their country opened up to tourism in the 1990s and gave rise to criticism of Cuba for having an “economic apartheid” system.
Raul Castro, 76, took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro as Cuba’s first new leader in almost half a century on Feb. 24, promising to do away with “excessive restrictions” in Cuban society and its state-run economy.
On Friday, the government announced an end to a ban on Cubans buying and using cellular telephones.