Published on 2020-11-02 by
By Danay Galletti Hernández
Source : TTC Travel Trade Caribbean
Cuba has gradually opened its borders to the foreign tourism, firstly on the northern cays of the country then in the well-known Varadero resort. Sputnik talked to representatives of hotel groups and private businesses owners so as to know how the island is going to receive the high season, the largest fluency period of travelers in the Caribbean.
The Ministry of Tourism in Cuba determined the reopening of tourist facilities for foreign vacationers the last July 1st. At this time, it was decided that the tourists’ entertainment was limited within the cays Cayo Coco, Santa María, Cayo Cruz, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Largo.
This October, the island opened Varadero and most part of its international airports for commercial flights after controlling the second wave of Covid-19, and being affected by the worst economic crisis in three decades. The José Maití international airport in Havana is still not operating, except for humanitarian flights and cargo, Cayo Coco airport is only opened for tourism.
The Cuban capital city represents the only terminal that the American airlines can operate because of the sanctions imposed by Washington and therefore its opening constitute one of the most expected decisions by Cuban residents in USA and tourists from this country.
Is it possible to travel to Cuba in 2020?
Air operations will be carried out under strict health protocols and all passengers will receive a PCR.
In the same breath, tourist must fill out a Health Declaration form, and once they have undergone the tests at the different airports, they will be under epidemiological surveillance at the accommodations or hotels chosen by them.
Although Cuba opens its borders, from now on we expect that airlines establish contact with the Cuban aeronautical authorities. Thus, it is expected that it would be a gradual process, as long as countries decide operations and travel destinations.
For instance, the German Condor airline has already announced that Cuba will be the destination with which it will resume its long-haul flights. Especially the company appreciates Varadero tourist destination for its operations from the coming October 31st. Departures will be from Frankfort and Düsseldorf cities to Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport in this tourist destination.
Likewise, Russia decided to authorize flights from Moscow-Coyo Coco and Moscow-Santa Clara, both placed on the country’s central region. The decision took into consideration that the island has less than 40 cases Covid-19 per 100.000 inhabitants in the last 15 days and with one or less daily-growth percent of infection in this period.
American airlines like Aeromar form Mexico will resume its operations towards the island in November, with a frequency from Thursday to Sunday, from Cancun to Havana, Varadero, Santa Clara and Cayo Largo, these latter destinations locate in the central region of the Caribbean island.
The new dispositions also include the restart of excursions, the reopening of the international marines and car rental. Measures like: temperature taking, wearing masks, the keeping of distance in common areas, avoid crowds and increase services in the open air come out to be important decisions in this stage.
Why spending your vacations in Cuba?
Sputnik spoke to Jesus Pérez Balsa, Gran Caribe Operations deputy president, group that counts on 15 hotels certified as “more hygienic and safer tourism” thanks to the implementation of health protocols intended to clients and workers. Room prices range from 30 to 80 USD depending on the category and location.
He stated that “among measures highlight the unstoppable surveillance at the entrance of facilities and at each area, a carpet provided with chlorine solution for shoes disinfection, the wearing of protection items, disinfection of luggage, the signing and the constant informing about the behavior to follow. Likewise, we count on a medical service composed by a doctor, a nurse and an epidemiologist”.
Since July until present day, the hotel group kept services at facilities such as Puttman, Arenas Blancas Hotel, among others; in the tourist destination Jardines del Rey, a group of cays on the north of several central provinces. “We have appreciated the level of satisfaction and tranquility of national and international clients”. Even though, there were cases of repetition because of the security and quality levels and we did not have any case of infection, he added.
Despise this being a tough year for tourism, the well-know TripAdvisor website, specialized in the tourist sector, granted the Travelers’ Choice Awards to 18 accommodations run by Meliá Hotels International Cuba, merit supported on the opinions of thousands of tourists.
Some of these facilities were included in the best 25 hotels of all-inclusive modality in the Caribbean and it awards the encouragement of an accommodation renewal program, image changing, maintenance and service redesign, focused on the improvement of comfort and wellbeing of clients and in harmony with the environment.
Meliá Hotels Chain, with presence in Cuba since 1990 after the opening of Sol Palmera Hotel, is presented in almost all the tourist destinations in the country with 34 facilities and more than 14.700 rooms.
“One of the right decisions for the management of the epidemiological situation in the country is the phases of post-pandemic recovering. The island’s government understands that the protection of the Cuban people is the main priority above all and, for this reason there were established areas and hotels for tourist activities”, assured to Sputnik Francisco Camps Orfila deputy general director of Meliá Cuba devision.
He also informed that this hotel group encourages the construction of Meliá Trinidad Península Hotel, a joint venture enterprise with 401 rooms. Its opening is expected for 2021 and the project includes all the security requirements needed to combat Covid-19 pandemic.
Although, there are hotels that launch offers for their clients, most of them keep its prices taking into consideration the crisis the sector copes, the need to bring back on track the economy as well as to maintain service quality standards.
“The first challenge is the reinsertion and diversification of tourist offers because, in the so-called leisure industry, the massive offer won’t be seen at least for the time being. The country requires to reactivate an economy battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the halt of almost all the sector, its second source of income”, said to Sputnik Alfredo Jiménez, head of the National Economical Research Institute.
What strategies undertake private agencies and workers?
The island, which closed its borders last March, boasts international prestige due to the health surveillance with low figures of infection and death. Hence, many travelers consider it a safe nation and is among the most sought-after destination in the area by travelers in the first quarter of 2021, according to a report provided the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The tourist guide Leyat Fernandéz explained to Sputnik that “Many people put off their vacations and others need a break after the isolation because of the pandemic. In the sense of strengthening projects and the application of strict hygiene protocols in the Greater of the Antilles and the predisposition of the government to open its borders to the world benefit the choice of Cuba as tourist destination”.
The Dominican Republic follows Cuba on the look for travels to the Caribbean. However, the Dominican Republic copes a disadvantageous situation regarding the struggling against the pandemic because, according to official information, it sums up more than 120.000 infected people and the death toll surpasses 2.900.
With the tourist high season at the gates, which goes from November to April, state and private enterprises have chosen innovation to face a global crisis that specialists find it worst than the one underwent in 2008 and 2009 when it was reported a 20% fall of market in the world.
Official data point out that tourism represents the 10% Gross Domestic Product of Cuba, and more than 500.000 professionals from the state sector work on it and a high percent of laborers from the private sector also work in tourist activities in the country.
According to Fernandez, the effort on promotion or the preparation of the ground has not stopped. In his mind, agencies dedicated to travel planning to the Caribbean archipelago have readjusted their market strategies for the sake of putting on the surface the country’s attractions by means of home videos and conferences online to interchange with potential clients.
“An American enterprise with which I work with carried out a survey on its portfolio of clients from more than 40 countries and most of them expressed their desire to travel to Cuba. The enterprise decided to enhance the country not only for its safety but also because its proximity and feasibility of flights and prices. Experts consider that flights restarting will represent a rise on fare costs”, he warned.
Fernández also refers to the different sectors linked to the provision of services to tourists and economic losses due to the pandemic. “There were many investments in rental houses, restaurants and in means of transportation. We too are hurt and have had to look for other sources of income”.
This is also the case for Elvy Quintana, who has a license as a photographer. When the recession began, last March, I had several projects underway and personal savings invested. In his opinion, the opening of borders constitutes a necessity for entrepreneurs since the state infrastructure does not satisfy the logistical demands of individuals.
“This isolation stage has forced me to think about new work structures, to value the client from another perspective, create new sales and communication channels and also redirect myself to the national market, present here all year round, well loyal, an ambassador of brand and publicist for free if you feel satisfied, "he tells Sputnik.
Businesses such as “A la Mesa” promoted the organization of events and home delivery services for gastronomic offers. “We are clear that no economy is sustained if consumers and producers are sick or dead. For the moment, we have decided not to reactivate the proposals assigned to foreign tourism to take care of workers and business partners”, says Ariel Causa, co-founder of the project.
Last year, the Antillean archipelago experienced a 9% decrease, largely as a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the United States Government. The country registered the arrival of 4.2 million tourists, 436,352 less than in 2018.