by Susana Corona Cruz
In light of coronavirus cases in Cuba easing up and health officials having the situation under control, an official press release made yesterday by MINTUR announced the continuation of Cuba’s travel lockdown until 30th June. In the meantime, the island’s tourism authorities continue working to improve health infrastructure and hygiene protocols for when tourists return to the island, without offering an exact date of when that would be.
Cuba has extended the closure of its border until 30th June, meaning that its airspace will continue to be closed, reopening on 1st July. Until then Cuba holidays will not be a possibility but airlines have already begun selling tickets with departures after 1st July, so many tour operators, travel agents, and, of course, casa particular owners are optimistic that travel to Cuba will gradually return to normal at least during the summer months.
At the same time, Cuban health authorities stressed that in the following weeks hard work must be done to ensure the Cuba holiday market returns to normal with solid sanitary measures in place. At the moment, the island’s tourism authorities are also simultaneously preparing to launch a new “health tourism services” according to sources tied to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism. According to what these sources revealed to El Nuevo Herald, said service would allow holidaymakers to benefit from the advantages of Cuba’s human capital and health system.
An island tourism official publicly revealed that:
“All measures will be taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading again. We cannot keep the country closed any longer because our economy does not allow it,”
However, despite announcing the reopening of tourism in Cuba, they stopped short of giving exact dates, although it is assumed that the holiday market will resume after 1st July. Still, authorities are cautious of a further travel ban extending beyond 30th June.
No Cuba holidays yet but the industry isn’t on hold either
Cuba holidays might not be possible for another month and a bit but the industry is working full steam ahead to make travel to Cuba safe for visitors and residents. In its most recent statement, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism said:
“Taking into account the current situation of the development of this disease in Cuba and in the world, the Ministry of Tourism focuses on continuous improvement of hotel and non-hotel facilities, as well as the development of hygiene and sanitary protocols, to deal with the resumption of tourism activities,”
Any little move to kickstart the Cuba holiday market is regarded with hope and moderate excitement among Cuba’s once burgeoning private sector, now stalled since the island announced the closing of its borders in late March. Whilst the majority of Cuban entrepreneurs, including hosts of casas particulares in Havana and beyond as well as paladar owners, were happy with the government measures to contain the pandemic and avoid further visitors coming into the country to avoid a perilous escalation of contagion, they all hope to welcome back tourists soon. Some remain cautious and would like to see more reassuring moves on behalf of government and health authorities to ensure holidays are as safe as can be for tourists and residents.
Preparing for travel to Cuba – resuming air travel
Upon the announcement that travel to Cuba might resume on 1st July some North American airlines have begun selling tickets to the island. American Airlines has its first flight scheduled for 7th July, revealing so in an official statement while Southwest and Air Canada have also started selling tickets on similar dates.
Full steam ahead to make Cuba holidays safe for visitors and residents
Tourism is Cuba’s most dynamic industry with an annual income hovering around the $3 billion mark as official figures show. Despite having a strong incoming market from Europe, the majority of tourists to Cuba come from Canada and Cuban-Americans from the USA.
The government and Cubans at all levels of society are working hard to make Cuba holidays safe again for everyone. Entrepreneurs are preparing for a reduced influx of customers, both in casas particulares and private restaurants, they know it won’t be ideal and that their income will not recover overnight but they’re very much in tune with government recommendations of taking extra precautions and moving snail-slow for now. They remain hopeful that welcoming back guests won’t be a health issue so they patiently await for health authorities to give the green light.
While Cuba hotels are readying themselves with sanitary protocols and guidelines, casa particular owners are also looking at ways they can ensure maximum hygiene when receiving guests and ensuring safe distance protocols for common areas like kitchens and patios. It helps that many of these casas are spacious enough that guests would never bump into each other anyway or that some of them are rented out as standalone holiday properties. They’re now ensuring that they can be on top of housekeeping with fully compliant, coronavirus-ready sanitation protocols, the right cleaning products, and the right hygiene steps.
Havana at the heart of the pandemic
As the country’s biggest, most densely populated city Havana has been the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in Cuba. As such other cities look at Havana and how it progresses as indicators of when certain activities will return to normal, or to a new normality in any case.
The Cuban government has already drafted a “back-to-new-normality” plan easing the lockdown measures present as they move from “pandemic” to “endemic” a stage during which some precautionary measures are still in place as the population learns to live with the pandemic while taking all steps to avoid contagion. Cuban health authorities believe that if they do it right and don’t rush between phases, they might see the pandemic start to peak again as late as November, giving them more time to better prepare for a second outbreak scenario.
If foreign tourists are welcomed back to Cuba at some point in July, strict measures will be in place during the summer months before barriers may need to be closed again in the winter. Within the window of the new normality, Cuba holidays will be possible again for a limited time but you must plan to visit between July and September as it’s likely that “new normality” may only last for so long…unless, of course, a vaccine comes first! Here at CubaCasa we’ll keep you updated so check back here in a few days’ time as we update you on when Cuba opens its borders and tourism activity returns to the island