Cuba has been a long-term participant of the OTDYKH Leisure exhibition. Every year the country chooses this event as the main tool to promote new products and services to the Russian outbound travel market. This, year Cuba will participate at the fair with 100 sqm stand, thus returning to pre-COVID-19 format of exhibiting.
Mr. Juan Carlos Escalona, Tourism Adviser at the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Russia shared the latest tourism news in the interview conducted by our team.
What are the entry regulations for travellers from Russia? Are there special privileges for COVID-19 vaccinated tourists? What rules apply to people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19?
Everyone travelling to Cuba through an agency or tour operator must have a negative result of a PCR test taken within 72 hours before travel. All travellers have to complete a Health declaration (usually provided on the plane). At the Cuban airport, upon arrival, travellers will be required to pass a temperature checks and to take a COVID-19 PCR again.
Every hotel in Cuba has a medical team including a doctor, nurse and epidemiology specialist. Upon arrival at hotel, medical staff will check guest’s temperature and explain the safety measures that must be followed while waiting for a PCR test result available within a period of 24 hours.
During this time, the tourist must wear a mask, maintain social distance and to wear a bracelet of a different colour that identifies him/her as a guest awaiting a result.
Travellers that have tested positive but have no symptoms will be isolated within specialised hotel facilities converted into hospitals, where they must remain in isolation for at least five days until negative result for SARS-CoV-2 is obtained.
Travellers that have tested positive and who begin experiencing symptoms will be taken to a hospital.
Holidaymakers that have tested positive and are traveling on their own will have to pay for quarantine by themselves.
There is no special treatment for vaccinated travellers yet. Vaccinated people can still transmit the coronavirus and thus, we need to take care of not vaccinated tourists.
Please tell us about the air traffic between Russia and Cuba. Is there any information that there will be new charter and regular direct flights?
There are 4 weekly charter flights to Cayo Coco and 7 to Varadero operated by Azur Air and Nordwind Airlines. The tour operator Coral Travel has also launched Royal Flight Airline charter programs.
We also expect Aeroflot to start 3 regular flights to Varadero on June 2.
The charter flights are very popular and well booked. We hope that in the autumn-winter season 2021/22, the corresponding permits will be granted to the rest of the tourist destinations of Cuba. Currently some popular designations such as Cayo Santa Maria, Camaguey and Holguin are open for tourism, but unfortunately do not have the necessary permits for flights. Finally, we look forward to the opening of Havana and the resumption of regular Aeroflot flights to the capital of Cuba!
Are there any restrictions on the movement of tourists around the country?
At the moment, we have restrictions on the free movement of tourists around the country. They can only travel on guided tours.
Cuba is currently developing 5 COVID-19 vaccines, two of which are in Phase 3 trials, and the rest are in Phase 2. These are highly effective vaccines created by Cuban scientists themselves.
By the end of May, we plan to vaccinate over 200 thousand Cubans, and over 6 million people by August, which is almost half of Cuba's population
Thus, we hope that by autumn all cities will be open to tourists. Cuba is soon to become one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.
What is the situation with hotels? Are there some hotels remain closed to tourist? Or, on the contrary, are there new hotels have opened in the last year? How do hotels attract Russian tourists?
Today, not all hotels are open. As the number of tourists increases, Cuba will open more hotels to visitors. Currently the average hotel occupancy rate in Cuba is 60%.
Hotels in Cuba used the months of lockdown for renovation work. They also improved their offers to Russian tourists. There are menus and signs in Russian language as well as Russian-speaking staff. Many people speak Russian language in Cuba. Some Cubans took higher studies in the former Soviet Union, others learned the language directly in Cuba.
Cuba has a special historical relationship with Russians, which makes Russian tourists especially welcome.
What are the forecasts for the tourist season 2021? What actions does Cuba plan to take to attract Russian tourists?
In 2019, Cuba received 176 000 Russian visitors, this is a record number. In 2020 despite the coronavirus epidemic, 74,019 Russian tourists visited the country. In 2021, as of May 6, almost 38 thousand citizens of Russia have visited Cuba.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, we expected the arrival of 200 thousand Russian tourists. Now this goal is postponed, but we expect to reach it in 2022.
I think that one day we will be able to welcome 300 thousand Russian tourists to Cuba, and in the not-too-distant future, even half a million of Russian tourists.
Some Russian hotel chains have already shown interest in managing hotels in Cuba, while other tour operators increasing their efforts to attract more tourists to Cuba. In the field of promotion, our budgets have shrunk a lot since the COVID-19 crisis; however, we will be participating in OTDYKH Leisure 2021, a very important exhibition for us to reach our objectives.
What are you planning to present at OTDYKH Leisure this year? What kind of innovations visitors will see at your stand?
Official delegation of hoteliers and the Ministry of Tourism will attend the exhibition. We hope that by then we will be able to present Cuba as one of the safest tourist destinations in the world. We offer treatment programs for tourists who have had COVID-19. Tourists will be also able to vaccinate against Covid-19 in Cuba.
We are planning to open new hotels in Holguin, Trinidad and Varadero as well as two new tourist destinations: Cayo Paredon Grande, north of Cuba, near Cayo Coco and the Ramon Peninsula east of Holguin, where the first hotels are already under construction.
OTDYKH Leisure Fair is the most important tool for us to promote Cuba in Russia.