The country has adopted safety protocols for tourism operations, including administering PCR tests for visitors, paid for by the Ministry of Tourism.
HAVANA TIMES – The arrival of a plane from the UK on October 25th, carrying the first international tourists to Varadero during the COVID-19 pandemic, marks the budding resumption of international and national tourism, which will provide some relief during Cuba’s financial crisis right now.
Flights for tourism purposes were reestablished in July, limited though only to the northern cays in the center of Cuba: Cayo Guillermo, Cruz, Santa Maria y Coco, with airports receiving national safety certification, as well as hotel facilities.
However, the first foreign visitors arrived in Cayo Coco and Cayo Santamaria on August 1st.
While Varadero reopened on October 15th, a flight carrying tourists wasn’t reported until almost a week ago. The travel industry’s revival doesn’t only depend on host countries though, it also depends on tourists’ country of origin.
Maritime boundaries reopened on October 19th for recreational boats and cruise ships, which can now stay in Cuban waters once again.
However, Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport is still waiting to open its doors, probably 10 days after COVID-19 rates are under control and there is some stability.
According to government announcements, tourist activities are based upon four principles: defending national production and getting rid of Cuba’s import mindset, giving the business sector greater management autonomy while making efficient use of material and financial resources.
Before the beginning of the pandemic, Cuba had estimated that it would receive 4.5 million tourists, which would have meant overturning the 9.3% decline in 2019, when 4.2 million tourists traveled to the country, some 436,352 less than in the previous year
Reopening with safety measures
The Ministry of Tourism announced the guidelines that will regulate one of the country’s top sources of revenue, which has been totally closed down since March, when a group of Italian tourists tested positive for Covid-19.
– International tourism operations will restart again in destinations where the “new normal” has been declared, excluding Pinar del Rio, Havana, Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila, with tourist facilities gradually opening up, depending upon demand.
– Airlines can “only sell flights” to open airports, except to Cayo Coco, which will continue to work as it has been, as Ciego de Avila is still in the community-transmission phase.
– Upon arrival at airports, tourists will be welcomed by health personnel, a PCR test will be administered and they will have to sign a declaration of health.
– International tourists will be able to stay at private rental homes in regions where the “new normal” has been announced.
– National and international tourists can share the same tourism facilities and services.
– Ticket offices will reopen to sell excursions in and to areas that are in phase 3 or the “new normal” phase.
– Excursions will only be allowed on the cays in Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Cruz. Tourists won’t be able to travel to Ciego de Avila, which is in the community-transmission phase.
– As Sancti Spiritus is also in the community-transmission phase, excursions won’t be marketed or sold, including to Trinidad.
– International marina operations and car rental services will restart, in regions where the “new normal” has been declared.
– National tourists will be able to stay on the cays, as long as the regions they belong to are in the “new normal” phase.
– Working hours, schedules and work contracts are being signed again for all tourism employees in regions where the “new normal” has been announced.
You can never be too careful
The tourism sector has adopted health and safety protocols, with advice from the Public Health Ministry, to protect employees and clients.
These protocols have been implemented ever since national tourism resumed first, and then international tourism, in July, including actively investigating symptoms when tourists arrive and during their stay, with doctors, nurses and hygiene and epidemiology graduates present 24/7.
Other actions include measuring body temperatures from a distance when workers and clients enter facilities, forbidding employees from going to work if they have respiratory symptoms, compulsory hand and surface hygiene and keeping a physical distance of 1.5 m away from others during any task.
Personal safety measures, physical divides or redesigning operations is compulsory in common areas and services (cleaning staff, restaurants).
Tourist rental homes must also follow a protocol: they are obliged to report the presence of clients with respiratory symptoms, must have disinfectant (bleach, alcohol, or others) for surfaces and hands.
Moving the domino
Measures adopted by the tourism industry as part of the country’s strategy to reactivate the economy, are focused on encouraging international and national tourism so that they can reach pre-COVID-19 levels as soon as possible, incorporating every product and hotel/non-hotel service onto the Cuba.travel platform.
Similarly, Cuba seeks to increase its channels of sales online, expanding its WIFI service in every common area and hotel room that has 4 or 5 stars, as well as at hotel facilities, campsites and non-hotel accommodation.
Identifying business opportunities in potential markets, picking up on countries that send specialist tourists, especially divers, fishermen, nature tourism, in markets with high potential for these activities, are some of the strategies being developed.
Meanwhile, innovative products are being developed for sectors such as health, culture, sports and ecology, and foreign investment for the development of facilities linked to wellbeing, health and lifestyle tourism.
Cuba has set out to identify new private products and services to broaden tourism services and efficiency, encouraging the use of renewable energy sources and reducing the use of fossil fuels; combining science and technology to improve energy efficiency.
|What the UNWTO predicts |
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has reported that international tourism fell by 22% in the first trimester and could fall up to 60-80% by the end of the year. According to estimates, the global decline in tourism will stand at 70%, if borders are gradually reopened and more flexible travel restrictions come into force in early September, and will stand at 78% if they only open in early December.