Published on : Saturday, January 9, 2021
Cuba is slowly opening Havana and other cities to tourism after opening the beach resorts in November, in order to breathe life into the devastated industry closed last March owing to the pandemic.
Francisco Duran, the head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, said that around 1,000 visitors are visiting the country daily, and the majority of them are going to resorts where COVID-19 protocols have proved effective. Few of them are also visiting the Cuban capital and also the beach.
Cuba, like other Caribbean countries, depends greatly on tourism, which represented about a tenth of its gross domestic product in 2019. Its economy suffered an 11% slump last year.
Now few Europeans, Canadians and Latin Americans have started pouring in although only a few hotels are open and most bed and breakfasts are empty.
Just a year ago, the Cuban capital was bustling with tourists walking the streets, riding in vintage U.S. cars and was shuttled back and forth in Chinese-built buses.
Cuba’s daily infection rate per capita was quite low by regional standards; however, it has doubled over the past month, mainly due to Cubans living abroad visiting family and breaking quarantine.
Flights from the United States and a few other countries from where Cuban-Americans arrive greatly reduced during the beginning of the pandemic. However, in spite of the pandemic, the Communist-run country witnessed a million tourists last year, and the government hopes to double that number this year. But that is still a far cry from the more than four million arrivals in 2019.
Visitors are tested at the airport and again in five days unless they are staying at a hotel under vigilance of a doctor-nurse team. From January 10, they will need a PCR test within 72 hours before arrival.
While the famous Varadero beach resort witnessed 69,000 visitors from November through December 23, a staff member at one Havana hotel said that there were fewer than 20 guests on Tuesday.
Tourists are now embarking on group excursions to Havana and even staying at bed and breakfasts without any additional restrictions.
Tour guide Carlos Diaz is thrilled to have some work. “The tourists are coming back bit by bit,” he said.