Havana, Cuba is readying to kickstart its tourism season in November amid efforts to contain the sharpest spike in daily Covid-19 cases, deaths and hospitalisations since the onset of the pandemic early last year. “In the coming days, we have to work hard to set all the conditions for tourists,” tourism minister Juan Carlos Garcia said.
Between January and August, Cuba only received 164,763 international visitors due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. But the government has recently announced that pandemic border control measures for incoming travellers would be relaxed starting from 15 November.
Cuba will no longer demand PCR tests upon arrival, and Covid-19 vaccination certificates issued abroad will be accepted by customs authorities. At present, hotels in Havana, and the seaside resorts of Varadero and Cayo Coco are receiving international tourists.
Sanitary protocols will be reinforced to minimise the risk of the virus, according to Maria del Pilar Macias, an official of the Cuban Tourism Ministry. The new measures will focus on monitoring symptomatic patients and temperature checks on arrival, she said.
Mask mandates and physical distancing guidelines will remain in place at hotel facilities. Cuba expects to vaccinate more than 90 per cent of its population by November. Consequently, about 45,000 tourism industry employees on the island have already been fully vaccinated with Cuban-developed three-dose vaccines.
The island resumed scheduled commercial flights in November 2020, when Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport restarted operations after having been closed for more than seven months due to the pandemic. Tourism accounts for more than 10 per cent of the country’s hard currency earnings, and the peak season runs from mid-November to April.