Cuba’s popular beach braces for mass tourism after pandemic

by Yosley Carrero

MATANZAS (Cuba), Oct.27 (Xinhua) – With dozens of tourists sunbathing and enjoying pina colada drinks, the famous Cuban beach of Varadero is experiencing a return of vitality undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic .

Located about 150 km east of Havana, the island’s most visited resort is preparing to welcome arriving international travelers as they will be invited to stay in quarantine hotels from November 7.

Right now, small groups of vacationers, mostly from Russia and Canada, are enjoying their time at Varadero Beach before the peak tourist season in the Caribbean country begins, which runs from November to April. .

Among them is Isanet Garcia, a 35-year-old tourist from Ontario, Canada.

“At the very beginning, I had to get over my fear of flying after so long,” she said. “Now I feel very safe in this country. The beach is big enough for everyone.”

Garcia’s husband Ahmed Al Hammuri told Xinhua he needed to escape the turmoil and get rid of the stress brought on by the pandemic.

“This is the sixth time that I have visited Cuba,” he said. “We expect not to be infected with the virus here. My wife and I are doing our best.”

The Cuban government continues to ease coronavirus lockdown measures, including reopening beaches and lifting restrictions on people mobility and inbound traffic.

In addition, the daily number of COVID-19 cases in the Cuban province of Matanzas, where Varadero beach is located, has fallen to less than 10 in recent days.

Ivis Fernandez, responsible for tourism in the province of Matanzas, said the average occupancy rate for tourist accommodation in Varadero was 17%.

“We expect that 70% of our room capacity will be reserved in the coming months if all goes according to plan,” she said. “The government is working hard to provide international travelers who visit the country with local vaccines. “

Meanwhile, Cuba-based hotel chains have tightened disinfection procedures and coronavirus guidelines to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus.

In hotels, guests are given disinfectant solutions to stay sanitized as they are required to wear face masks and refrain from swimming at the beach or in swimming pools.

While in Varadero, tourists are also subject to temperature checks and epidemiological surveillance by medical teams working 24/7 in hotel facilities.

Roberto Rubio, general manager of the Royalton Hicacos hotel, said the COVID-19 vaccination campaign with national vaccines would make Cuba one of the safest tourist destinations in the region.

“This country aims to vaccinate its entire population against the coronavirus by the end of the year, which sends a clear message to international travelers,” he said.

Cuba has already received around 200,000 international tourists so far in 2021, while the government plans to welcome another 100,000 foreign vacationers by the end of the year.

The Caribbean nation received just one million tourists in 2020, far less than the nearly 4.2 million in 2019.

For Fernando Falla, seller of sun hats on the brand new boulevard de Varadero, the complete reopening of tourism will bring prosperity to the inhabitants of the small coastal town where the resort is located.

“With the beach devoid of tourists, things were not going very well. Our economic situation got complicated,” he said. “Now, with the massive influx of tourists, the economy could start to prosper.”

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