An article by Reuters has described how Cuban tourism operators breathed a sigh of relief this week as the first tourists in months returned to Cuba, "the Pearl of the Caribbean", following the borders being opened this month. Read on and find out more!
Cuba and that refreshing first sip of Mojito!
Following the news that the country's borders were to open on 15th November, as well as some of the island's biggest hotel chains like Melia Cuba, Iberostar and Gran Muthu re-opening many of their hotels and resorts throughout November and December, an article by Reuters has described how the first tourists are now arriving back to Cuban shores.
"Cuban tourism operators breathed a sigh of relief this week as the first tourists in months returned to sip mojitos and snap selfies in vintage cars in the capital Havana, providing a much-needed shot in the arm to the Caribbean island's ailing economy." - Reuters
According to official governmental statistics, new infections have dropped off sharply across the country in recent weeks. This is down to the aggressive stance Cuba has shown in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic.
Despite its relatively small population, Cuba has developed no fewer than five vaccines, and has vaccinated nearly its entire population with these home-grown inoculations.
This prompted the authorities last week to re-open the country's borders to tourism after a two-year hiatus, which caused huge problems for the island's economy.
"The Bodeguita del Medio, a restaurant-bar that claims to be the birthplace of the mojito cocktail, was bustling on a sunny November day as bartenders prepared mint-laced drinks for largely European tourists in shorts and t-shirts." - Reuters
Breathing life back into Cuba's capital city
Havana, the capital city of Cuba, has never really been a sleepy place to be. It first gained a reputation as a "party city" as early as the turn of the 20th century, and then went through a number of renaissances throughout the 1920s and 1950s as a city of fashion and fun.
The quietest the city has been in recent times, was throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, and Cubans who work in the tourism sector, in the many hotels and "casas particulares" (B&Bs), are glad to see the capital's rhythm and pizzazz coming back.
Ernesto Hechevarria, a 55-year old tourist guide, told Reuters that outside the bar once frequented by author Ernest Hemingway, foreign visitors would definitely breathe life back into the city.
"Tourism is the engine of Cuba's economy", Hechevarria said as he watched tourists come in and out. "Now the economy is beginning to revive."
Cuba, waking up from a two-year sleep
The city's slumber went much deeper than the tourism sector though. Authorities were forced to close schools, entertainment venues and restaurants, and drastically scaled back flights to the island for nearly two years during the pandemic, exacerbating an economic crisis that left residents short of food and medicine.
One such example was Dayana Siloche, who sells traditional Cuban handicrafts to tourists in Havana. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, she had seen her livelihood all but wiped out.
"Everything had come to a standstill. We couldn't make enough to eat. There was nothing. Now, little by little, things are returning to normal." - Dayana Siloche
Tourists were equally happy as they snapped photos of central Havana's attractive plazas and charming side streets.
Spanish tourist Ignacio Pindado strolled through Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion, thrilled with the opportunity to travel once again.
"Being able to come here, and to see international borders like those of Cuba once again reopen, is marvelous." - Ignacio Pindado
As the trickle of tourists gathers momentum over the coming weeks, and more holidaymakers choose Cuba for its stunning cities and paradisiacal beaches, as well as its warm winter temperatures, Cubans relying on the travel sector are likely to see their economy take a much needed upward turn.