A 5-STAR DESTINATION
Tourism is booming here, and Bouygues Bâtiment International, a leading partner of the country since 1999, has twenty-two hotel projects underway on the island. A visit to a few takes us from the streets of Havana to the beaches of Cayo Santa Maria.
On this sunny morning in March, tourists wander the narrow, twisting streets between weathered façades in Habana Vieja1.
The drivers of lemon yellow and raspberry red American cars from an earlier era tempt them with offers of a tour around town, and street singers entertain them with traditional ballads. To the delight of these visitors, their clichéd images of Cuba are still very much alive here in the capital.
Amidst the hustle and bustle stands Gran Hotel La Manzana with its dazzling white 1900s façade. While workers put the finishing touches on the newly restored building, furniture is hauled into what will soon be Havana’s swankiest hotel.
It is Bouygues Construction’s first hotel in the city. “It is also the island’s first hotel with such high standards and with a style never before seen in Havana,” , says Stéphane Grandperret, Director of the project and of the Havana branch. Teams from Bouygues Bâtiment International have been working on the top-to-bottom renovation project for three years, transforming an old shopping center dating from 1910 into a luxury hotel that will open its doors in 2017
SWIMMING POOLS FLOATING ABOVE THE CITY
All 246 rooms will feature Wi-Fi and smart television, amenities that are important to the international clientele that will stay here. Arno Joubert, a familiar figure in Bouygues’ projects in Cuba, designed the hotel, with a hand from the Bouygues Bâtiment International staff based in Havana. “This hotel will be a benchmark for future ones in Cuba. We had to come up with a design that was classic and age-less, yet still contemporary in spirit.” The predominant color in the rooms, the three bars, and the restaurants is gray, but dashes of color tastefully added here and there remind us that we are in the Caribbean. Providing a final touch of charm to the hotel, the elegant infinity pool on the roof offers a splendid view of the city and the Capitolio building.
Not far from there, over 345 Bouygues workers are busy renovating another hotel from the early twentieth century. The make-over of the Hotel Packard, currently in the structural works phase, presents a technical challenge owing to the building’s combined metal and concrete construction and the eight-meter cantilever above the infinity swimming pool. Seemingly built into the core of the building, this daring pool is the creation of Michel Regembal, the architect of the Stade de France stadium. The Packard will be another standard-setter for five-star hotels in Havana. A particular feature of this project, it is one of eight pilot sites where Bouygues Bâtiment International is applying the lean management approach2. “The planning is participative, collaborative, and visual. Each task is defined down to the smallest detail, which boosts productivity,” explains Project director Manuel Bazan. “One of our missions is to bring these innovations to our Cuban partners.”
30,000 ROOMS HANDED OVER
A six-hour drive from Havana takes us to Cayo Santa Maria. And to a change of scene, with fine-sand beaches replacing the capital’s bustling streets. Nature has been preserved here on one of Cuba’s typical small, low-lying islands to the delight of tourists in search of peace and relaxation. Facing the turquoise sea, a new hotel complex, Laguna del Este 5, is under con¬struction. No fewer than eight cranes tower above the shore, and seven hundred site workers come and go in shifts on this vast project, the tenth that Bouygues Construction has worked on in Cayo Santa Maria.
When completed, Laguna del Este 5 will comprise 802 suites and 34 swimming pools. Procurement is a crucial issue in this project because materials must pass through a Cuban purchasing center, and delivery times vary. “Despite the difficulties, what is motivating here is that each project we do is better than the last in terms of execution,” notes Alexandre Falleguerho, Director of the Cayo Santa Maria branch. “And we also feel we are contributing to the country’s development.” Since 1999, the company has handed over more than 30,000 rooms, or 50 percent of the accommodations offered in Cuba and 100 percent of those in five-star establishments. “Our success here is due to our having listened to the Cubans right from the start. Our col¬laboration is based on mutual respect,” explains Human Resources director Laurent Mellier. “We spend a lot of time training Cubans and transferring Bouygues expertise to them.”
In recent years, forty-five Minorange Guild members have come from France to manage and train workers on the sites. “We teach them easier ways of working and, most importantly, show them safety best practices,” says Paul Delgado, a Minorange member at Brézillon. “But it works both ways. We learn an enormous amount from them, too.” Demis Monteagudo, the Cuban Deputy director of the Laguna del Este 5 project, agrees: “Our rela¬tions are very enriching. Bouygues helps us improve, and the Cuban teams offer solutions that help move the work forward.”
IDEAS AND TRUST
In constructing the hotels in Cuba, the company does all the work from A to Z, with no subcontractors. It is a good approach for the teams, as it gets them very involved in the projects. Until the recent jobs in Havana, all the hotels have been at Varadero or on the Cayos. Most offer all-inclusive resort packages to compete with the complexes in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. “We start with a blank sheet,” says Technical director Philippe Trehou. “The client gives us a parcel of land, and we come up with and develop the entire project – the design, construction, and even the landscaping. We have built a relation-ship of trust with Cuban authorities, so we can suggest ideas to them.”
The Bouygues teams track the hotel market closely so they can provide the best advice to their partners. By checking what guests are saying on TripAdvisor, making study trips to other countries, and meeting with hotel operators, they can present projects that are well matched to the demand. “For example, we advised them to diversify and, instead of offering just all-inclusive hotels with over 500 rooms, to also develop smaller, more upscale hotels,” recalls Commercial director Claude Macor. “Our Cuban partners say we are their eyes on the world!”
A NEW ELDORADO
It is a partnership that has also allowed a sustainable development approach. “Now all the hotel projects are aiming for BREEAM certification,” points out Izaskun Laucirica, Sustainable development and Quality, Health and Safety manager. Tourism shot up 15 percent in 2016, prompting the government to move forward with a massive hotel construction program. . “Before 2015, we had two or three projects a year on the island, but right now, we have twenty-two projects going all at once,” says Michel Hochet, Head of Bouygues Construction’s operations in Cuba and the Americas. “We are also going to be diversifying, as we are the preferred bidder for the renovation of Havana’s airports. We are also working on many other projects and in particular, tourism-related infrastructures.” Cuba clearly has its sights set on becoming one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
- Old Havana
- A continuous improvement method developed by Toyota
- Minorange Guild members