MADRID, Spain. – An extensive report in Granma tells in detail every measure that the communist regime is thinking of enacting for the reopening of international tourism starting November 15th. It seems that on that day, the Cuban borders will reopen in order to welcome again the much-awaited hard currency, and for that purpose, has established its priorities based on a bombastic idea: “safe and responsible tourism.”
It’s good to point out that, without any flamboyance, other countries in the area (the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica) opened their borders much earlier and have achieved an exceptional summer-tourism campaign, in spite of the difficulties. Cuban communists think that eliminating the compulsory quarantine for international travelers upon arriving in Cuba will be an incentive that will attract tourists. We’ll see about that.
The regime’s authorities estimate that this winter season, 100,000 visitors will arrive. To make it clear, this is a projection of less than 10% of the average number of visitors in normal years. This should give us an idea of the strong impact that the closing of borders and the COVID-19-related activity shutdown have had, still have and will continue to have on Cuban tourism. You can’t blame the embargo for that.
The question is if whether with those numbers, which inevitably will be less, hotel activity can be restored. The answer to this question is not yet clear. Basically, if a German, French, Canadian or Spanish tourist plans on enjoying a winter vacation –shorter than summer ones- and he or she goes to the local travel agency to purchase a tourism package and finds messages about “safe and responsible tourism”, to then learn what the directors of Cuban tourism have in store for the traveler, that tourist will probably leave the travel agency.
People don’t want risk, and the behavior of international tourism is to find normalcy. It does not go searching for slogans that remind everyone of the pandemic, and of course, no one wants to be told what to do or not to do. The very message that intends to attract tourists to the island could result in the opposite. Someone has not done their homework. The more they insist on relaying a message about measures adopted to give vacationers a pleasant stay without risks, the more they instill fear on potential buyers.
In order to reopen its borders on November 15, Cuban communists have readied the 10 international airports. They claim to have generated “expectations” with tour operators and airlines, and show an increase in requests from Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia and other European countries, as well as Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Flights from these latter countries should receive follow-up and be analyzed because these are flights that are indispensable to the transportation of goods by Cubans engaged in such travel. They now have certain advantages at Cuban customs.
We are talking about few tourists. It will be good to know if Russians will be returning to Cuba or if they will opt for traveling this summer to the Dominican Republic.
Cuba’s rulers have also decided to stop the circulation of cash, even for payment of products and services, blaming this ban on a perceived potential risk of COVID-19 transmission. In this manner, the business that selling pre-paid cards in hard-currency means for the Cuban state is being camouflaged by claiming that those cards make it easier for the tourist to make purchases. The regime has come up with cards that are not personalized; if the user so desires, any remaining balance is returned to the tourist upon his departure from Cuba, in the foreign currency available in the exchange stores, if, and only if, that hard currency is available.
The hope being placed on November 15th is clear, especially after [president] Díaz-Canel’s announcement. That hope is based on an alleged decrease of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last few days, and on an alleged guarantee of health protection on account of the Cuban-made vaccines being administered to the population, although none has been certified as of yet by the WHO. The government is thinking of prioritizing workers in the [tourism] sector, as well as transportation, immigration, and aviation. Since the plan is to have 90% of the population fully vaccinated by November 15th, that date is regarded as the best moment to reopen. I hope there are no regrets later.
At the same time, the gradual opening of cultural events and institutions will be scheduled, including galleries, museums, libraries, and the like. The objective is to communicate confidence. Likewise, on November 15th, the airport PCR test will stop being administered; all international travelers –both Cuban-born and foreign- will be required to present a health passport or an international certificate that attests to being vaccinated against COVID-19 with vaccines certified by the pertinent regulatory agencies. However, travelers without said documents will have to present a negative PCR test administered within the last 72 hours prior to their arrival. Children under 12, irrespective of nationality, will not have to present proof of vaccination or a PCR. Submission of Traveler’s Health Declaration will be required, and authorities are working to digitalize that process and to make its submission doable long before travel date. This is still not clear.
Masks will be required inside the air terminals, as well as in the whole country, especially in inside spaces. PCR tests will be administered at random inside the airports. Travelers who show symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent to a pertinent health center; all tourists will be under health surveillance within tourist facilities. Owners of rental-housing and hostels are required to inform health authorities about any client who shows symptoms associated with COVID-19.
Cuban travelers will be compelled to show up at their community medical office or at their local Public Health center within 48 hours of arriving to the country, in order for their family doctor to provide follow-up treatment. Cuban travelers who reside in the country will be administered antigen tests on the seventh day from arrival; if symptoms are detected, it will be handled as a Covid-suspicious case.
If, after reading about all [these restrictions], people still want to travel to Cuba, it will be a miracle. If there is something tourists want is peacefulness, but that doesn’t mean that they will accept that a communist official tells them what to do or not to do while vacationing. That’s the difference.
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