Tourism Ministry says country not yet ready to open to visitors

In response to growing social media speculation about the reopening of Cuba’s tourism sector, the country’s Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) has said that it will not open to visitors until government declares it is safe to do so.

The MINTUR statement followed the announcement by several airlines including Air Canada, American, and South West that they had begun accepting bookings to Havana from early June.

MINTUR said in a 15 May statement: ‘For the sake of protecting national health security, the fundamental purpose of the Cuban State, our borders will not be opened, nor will tourist services be activated, until indicated by the Government of the Republic of Cuba’.

It added that its focus, while the disease continued to develop around the world, would remain on the ‘continuous improvement of hotel and non-hotel facilities, as well as the development of hygiene and sanitary protocols, to face the restart of tourist activities’.

Separately, Dr Francisco Durán, the National Director of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health told a press briefing the same day that Cuba will not reopen its borders, nor tourism and that he could not predict a date when visitors might return. This he said, would depend on the global situation and the set of measures that will need to be adopted in relation to already established international health regulations. These include temperature scanners at airports, registration of travellers, and a check by a doctor on visitors during the first 72 hours, and isolation for those exhibiting any symptoms. Durán said that by complying with these measures, the world will be able to open up in the future and keep propagation risks as low as possible. However, “this is not the time” he said.

Southwest had announced that it would resume services to Havana from Tampa on 7 June along with its other Caribbean services, American Airlines said it would return to flying to Havana on 4 June, and Air Canada had also announced that it is taking bookings for flights in June. Despite this, Cuba’s ports and airports remain closed to regular passenger traffic.

The Executive Director of the Spanish chain Meliá Hotels, Gabriel Escarrer, recently said that when Cuba is ready to open to visitors it will be an important destination. He told the Spanish travel industry publication, Preferente, it was in “a privileged position” as a safe destination and will be able to ‘sell’ health security (Cuba Briefing 11 May 2020).

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