HAVANA, April 14th In this edition of Take 5, Lessner Gomez, Director of the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto, speaks about the ease of visiting Cuba right now, the outlook for the months ahead, and why Cuba is so thankful for its Canadian travel industry partners. Canadian travel agents are “an important part of our extended Cuban family,” says Gomez.
1. Cuba has been welcoming visitors for many months now. Can you outline the entry requirements for Canadian travellers arriving in Cuba at this point in the pandemic, if any?
“Cuba has no restrictions now for Canadians visiting the country. Incoming travellers must show their valid passport, tourist card (included) and COVID-19 medical insurance, that’s all. NO COVID-19 test of any kind is required prior enter Cuba. NO quarantine on arrival.
On-island testing will be only for passengers exhibiting symptoms; if they get sick while on vacation, they isolate at the same hotel they booked, but at a different block of rooms separated from the rest (with room service 24/7).”
2. Canada finally eased its travel restrictions in February and dropped its pre-arrival test requirement on April 1. Canadians are eagerly travelling again. How has the Canadian market performed for Cuba over the past year, relatively speaking, and has Cuba seen more Canadian travellers in recent weeks?
“There is no doubt that the easing of the travel restrictions was very important and a prevailing factor in the recovery of our industry. We saw right away an increase in sales and resuming more flights to Cuba.
“The sales to main destinations in Cuba have been growing steadily month by month, reaching more than 113,389 Canadians by April 10, 2022.
“The summer outlook is positive, we perceive an upward trend, and all Canadian airlines are keeping their flight schedules to Cuba very close to the numbers prior to the pandemic”
3. What’s the vibe in Cuba right now, for travel? Is the Malecon in Havana bustling again, are the restaurants and nightclubs busy?
“Thanks to the efforts of the Cuban authorities, more than 90% of the population has been vaccinated including kids, and the country has been successful in containing the spread of COVID-19.
“This helped a lot in returning to normalcy. All facilities, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, tours and excursions, car rentals, etc. are open for business and fully operational.
“As the tourist flow increases, the extra hotel services and amenities are getting busier, and the destination is exhibiting its usual joy and vibrancy. The events and conferences are reopened to the international and national public with special mention to FITCUBA 2022 which is coming back in person (May 3 – 7 in Varadero).
“In other words, Cuba is back to normal, and our visitors will be able to enjoy our beautiful beaches, the music, rich culture, and diversity, but more importantly our safety.”
4. Is there any Cuba resort news that Canadian travel agents should know about?
“We are very excited to announce a new destination in Cuba called Ramon Peninsula, in Antilla, in the northern part of Holguin province, with the opening of a five-star hotel called Tesoro del Atlántico.
“This area, besides the outstanding beach, is very close to national parks and favourite ecotour zones such as Pinares de Mayari and Cayo Saetia.
“Also, we are very happy with recent luxury hotels openings in Havana, Cayo Guillermo and Holguin: the Grand Aston Habana Hotel, Gran Kempinski Hotel Bristol La Habana, Sofitel SO El Prado, Kempinski Resort Cayo Guillermo and Gran Muthu Almirante (at Guardalavaca beach in Holguin).
“During the downtime due to COVID, lots of improvements were made to the existing hotels and to the extra-hotel infrastructure such as the expansion of the WiFi service and the opening of the new boulevard pedestrian zone in Varadero.
“We recommend to our travel advisors to visit other parts of the Cuban geography outside of the traditional tourist areas that are equally beautiful and fascinating. We invite them to explore the new nature and adventure destinations in Cuba, the diving sites and the charming areas of Baracoa, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Pinar del Rio among others.”
5. What is the Cuba Tourist Board’s message for travel agents at this point in the pandemic?
“On behalf of The Cuba Tourist Board’s entire team, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the travel advisor community in Canada for their hard work during these difficult times and for being an important part of our extended Cuban family.
“We are thankful for their continued support, and we recognize the important role they play in steadily increasing the numbers of Canadians visiting Cuba even throughout these unprecedented times.
“As we move forward, we are excited about our partnership and the future of travel to Cuba. Stay tuned for FAM trips and presentations to come … and we are only an e-mail away.”