When Can Cuba Safely Reopen to Tourism?

Tourists waiting to go into the Chocolate Museum in Old Havana. File photo: Juan Suarez

By Aurelio Pedroso (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES – Unforgettable were those televised declarations of the head of marketing of the Ministry of Tourism who said, in full development of the pandemic, that we were not closed. She noted that under the individual responsibility, the visitor could reach the Island, that we had an efficient health system ready to assimilate passengers fleeing from the virus.

Of course, at that point, it was already a matter of contention between supporters of continuing business as usual and those responsible for Public Health who advocated putting a STOP light at both ends of our airstrips and ports.

After more than two months, there may well be indications of resting elbows on the table, except that this time the referee is calculating with extreme fairness the moment in which a floral artist places a colorful arrangement on a hotel reception desk.

Personally, I think that the start will be around July, in the northern keys of the Island. A knowledgeable friend mentioned another option I hadn’t thought about: he said another possibility would be a moderate start also with national tourism, with reasonable prices and, likewise, modest culinary offers, since hotels have emptied their pantries in favor of bringing the food to the domestic market.

An element to assess is the number of airlines that, as in an organized queue, are requesting or “marking” for their respective landing permit, at a time when the threat and the effects of the epidemic lessen.

There is a great need for tourism that, although it will not escape the global depression that lies ahead, will always be an option for those who want to and can ($) come.

That is what we are in, in the preparations. The two most vocal voices of the moment have said it, which are none other than those of the President and the Prime Minister, without sacrificing the “epidemiological masses” offered daily by Dr. Durán at 9 in the morning, a previously anonymous specialist who has become one more member of the Cuban family.

“The data confirms the possible control” of the epidemic, Dr. Durán has just reported. But then he added that it was “the most dangerous moment”, taking into account what happened in other nations that, having a similar situation, “dropped their guard” and the cases increased.

Translated into colloquial language, slow the step there’s a precipice. If the Caribbean neighbor-competitors in the area open first, there will be fewer visitors to receive in Cuba, but we will achieve greater safety. Remember that caution always pays double.

In any case, this dilemma of when to open will find supporters on both sides. And hopefully common sense prevails, also lacking on many non-tourist roads in this country.

Beach in Varadero, Matanzas, Cuba.  By Nicola Tutti (Vancouver, Canada).

4 thoughts on “When Can Cuba Safely Reopen to Tourism?

  • There is no limits as to who can in Canada. Trudeau never shut down international flights from no where. That would be racist in his opinion. My neighbour works for the airlines and flights have never stopped, not even from the worst hotspots.

  • There is an interesting type of protection being introduced by New Zealand and Australia, in the form of an “aviation bubble” where aircraft can fly within the area of the bubble as all the destinations are almost free of Covid 19, Similarly the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are permitting traffic between them. Other countries, predominantly in Eastern Europe and parts of Scandinavia (excluding Sweden), are examining the possibility. Obviously countries including the USA, Brazil, Russia and the UK could not be included. But in due course a “bubble” could be formed between Cuba and Canada permitting tourism to re-commence. In Canada just over 50% of incidence of Covid is in the Province of Quebec, but the other provinces are steadily improving. One essential of such a “bubble” would be to keep the Canadian/ US border closed to anything except essential traffic.

  • At the moment July 1 is the projected date for re-opening airports in Cuba. Initially traffic will I think be confined largely to family members and business travel. Cuba itself is not the only limiting factor, the regulations applied by other countries being a major factor.

    Currently, Canada for example has strict limits upon who is allowed to enter the country – spouses being one qualifying group.

    Eclectic mentions what In my opinion will become more evident with time passing “Foreign travel may no longer be affordable”. Currently many appear to be thinking “When things return to normal”. As I wrote previously, that isn’t going to happen. Many will remain jobless, many will struggle to pay off incurred debt. People will be a lot more careful when spending money on non-essentials, they will have to address priorities, and the economic conditions in my opinion will resemble those of the late thirties.

    That isn’t a pretty picture, but those who can recall the late thirties, know that TVs, computers, cell-phones etc, didn’t exist. Refrigerators, electric washing machines, cars and holidays were luxuries, very few could dream of foreign holidays.

    The post Second World war consumer society ended that, but maybe its time has passed and we have to stare cold reality in the face.

  • The suggestion that resumption of airline access will be important, is clearly correct, but there is more to it than that.

    Airline traffic to Cuba will be dependent upon the perception of prospective visitors of the safety of visiting. Unless Cuba is absolutely free of Covid-19, or there is a vaccine, visitors will likely be hesitant. Yet, probably the Virus will continue to linger, and there is unlikely to be a vaccine before year end. So, even if airlines start to again fly to La Habana, it is questionable whether the tourists will immediately return.

    Many visitors to Cuba come on tours. Tours are not arranged and booked overnight. There will be at least a 60 day lag period before tours can be arranged and booked with tourists.

    Many Cuban visitors came on cruises. Cruises from the U.S. are no longer allowed. Cruises from other parts of the world have a lag period. They must be planned, and then sold to the public, well before the cruise actually occurs.

    The Virus has had a negative worldwide economic effect. Foreign travel may no longer be affordable to people who otherwise would have liked to visit Cuba.

    So, as much as I would like to return to Cuba soon, I think there are a number of challenges. My guess is that July 1 is a possible re-open date, but that it will take at least until the end of the year before tourism returns to its pre-pandemic levels.

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