Havana, Oct 15 (EFE) .- After a seven-month hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic, with the second wave of the virus already under control but hit by its worst crisis in three decades, Cuba reopened this Thursday to international tourism its most famous resort, Varadero, and most of its airports, except for Havana.
The capital, the main gateway to the Caribbean island and the only terminal in which US airlines can operate due to recent sanctions from Washington, has not yet officially entered the “new normal” stage in force in the vast majority of the world. country and at the moment it has not announced a date for the restart of flights.
Meanwhile, about 150 kilometers east of Havana, the Varadero resort is ready to receive international visitors, who should start arriving as of next week on flights from the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.
The German company TUI, the largest tour operator in the world, or the airline Cóndor have already confirmed that they will resume their operations with this Caribbean destination.
For the rest of the Cuban terminals open as of today, no date has yet been announced for the restart of operations.
The paradisiac peninsula of Hicacos will be the first point of the big island to which foreign tourists will be able to return, who since last July could already visit Cuba, but with stays limited to the keys to the north and south of the archipelago, temporarily prohibited to Cubans for prevent coronavirus outbreaks.
During that partial opening, the visitors who have arrived were mainly Canadians, although with a lower influx than expected, probably because in Canada quarantine is still mandatory when re-entering the country, which discourages travel.
The local authorities assure that the Juan Gualberto Gómez airport in the resort, considered the second most important in the country for its income and traffic, has all the biosafety certifications.
Similar sanitary protocols will be followed by the more than 50 hotels in the spa, mostly managed by companies such as the Spanish Meliá, Iberostar and Globalia, and the Canadian Blue Diamond.
Varadero, voted in 2019 the second best beach in the world according to TripAdvisor, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Cuba.
Last January that pole registered a growth of visitors of 12%, a hopeful figure at that time for the island, which suffered a decrease of 9.3% in foreign arrivals in 2019.
ENGINE READY TO START
Considered the engine behind the battered Cuban economy, tourism is the second official source of income for the island, only behind the sale of professional services abroad and contributes around 10% of the gross domestic product.
The tourism sector employs half a million people in the state sector, to which is added a high percentage of the more than half a million private workers in the country.
In 2020, Cuba was expected to receive 4.5 million international visitors with the hope of reversing the fall of last year, when according to official data, 436,352 fewer tourists arrived than in 2018.
The covid-19 pandemic forced the borders to be closed in April and dealt a severe blow to the aspirations of the Caribbean island, which is now seeking to take advantage of the high winter season to compensate part of the losses, supported above all by the proper handling of the crisis sanitary.
The sector authorities used the break to repair and condition tourist facilities throughout the territory. The reopening to local tourism in some provinces – again with the exception of Havana – has served as a test before the arrival of foreign visitors.
With an accumulated 6,062 positives for the coronavirus, 93.7% recovered and 123 deaths in seven months, Cuba exhibits a favorable situation compared to the rest of the countries in the region.
The Cuban government has assured that it will provide first-rate health care to tourists, who will have to undergo a PCR test upon arrival and will have medical follow-up until the result is obtained.
Each hotel will also have a group of health workers who are alert to possible respiratory symptoms.
HAVANA, THE MOST EXPECTED DESTINATION
Since last Monday, much of Cuba entered a “new normal” that includes the reopening of services and activities at full capacity, along with the restart of flights at almost all airports, except Havana and the central provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Sancti Spiritus.
These last two territories displaced Havana as the epicenter of the epidemic on the island, and they are the only ones still in phase 0.
The capital is in phase 3 – the step prior to the “new normal” stage – with some restrictions in force.
The restart of flights to and from Havana’s José Martí airport is the most anticipated decision by Cubans, who have seen the country’s chronic shortages worsen without the relief of the black market.
The exit ban has cut the supply chain of informal commerce on the island, supported by the so-called “mules”: thousands of people dedicated to importing all kinds of products absent from the state monopoly of stores.
The thousands of Cuban-Americans scattered throughout the United States, who can only reach José Martí due to the recent US veto on commercial and charter flights to other airports, are also eagerly awaiting the reopening of Havana.
The Cuban government announced that it will soon report on new measures to relax restrictions in Havana, among which it is expected that they will announce the reestablishment of air operations and with them the opening of hotels in the most visited city on the island by tourists. EFE
| K: SOC: SOCIETY-HEALTH, HEALTH ECO: ECONOMY, SECTORS-COMPANIES, TOURISM ECO: ECONOMY, SECTORS-COMPANIES, TRANSPORT |
| Q: SYS: es-ES: 07002000: Sanitation and health: Epidemics and plagues ECO: es-ES: 04014000: Economy, business and finance: Tourism and leisure ECO: es-ES: 04015001: Economy, business and finance: Transport: Air transport |
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