AREQUIPA, Peru. - Chilean airline LATAM resumed its operations to Jose Martí International Airport in Havana this Monday, three-and-a half years after interrupting of its service, according to the official press. A report on the Cubadebate portal indicates that a flight from Lima, Peru, with 116 passengers on board, marked the restart of operations. LATAM flights will be connecting several cities in South America with the island through a frequency of four flights per week. Patricia Esquinazi Marín, Chile’s ambassador to Cuba and her counterpart from Peru in Havana, expressed their satisfaction with the news and stated that the flights would strengthen trade relations between Chile, Peru and Cuba. Likewise, they explained that these flights will allow people to visit and acquaint themselves with Cuba’s culture, gastronomy and hospitality as well as allow Cubans to visit other Latin American countries. With connections in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, LATAM will arrive in Havana on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Giana Galindo Enríquez, trade director for the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR, by its Spanish acronym), stated that this is a new opportunity for visitors who wish to experience Cuba as tourist destination, and added that a new door was opening. However, beyond the intentions of the island’s authorities, Cuba as tourist destination occupies the last place in Caribbean-sector recovery statistics, according to reports by the European company Forwardkeys, the world’s main provider of travel statistics. In recent rankings, this company analyzed the conduct of tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic: Cuba ranked 28th, the last place on the list. Statistics show that arrival of international travelers to Cuba between January and September 2023 have decreased by 45% if compared to the same period for 2019. The forecast for the last quarter of this year does not project any significant improvement. In fact, confirmed ticket purchases until October 1st showed a drop of 41%. LATAM started its operations in Cuba in 2011, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, it flew more than 90,000 passengers, with occupancy above 90%, according to Galindo Enríquez.
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