Mon, 10 Aug 2020

HAVANA, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Cuba on Wednesday partially reopened its borders to international tourists in keeping with measures adopted by the government as part of the country's post-pandemic recovery plan.

On March 31, the Caribbean nation announced the suspension of international flights and asked international boats to withdraw from its territorial waters as a precautionary measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus nationwide.

Although foreign visitors are only allowed to enter resorts in the northern and southern keys of the country for the moment, excursions inside the area allocated for touristic activities will be at the disposal of foreign visitors, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.

The decision came after the country's daily increase in COVID-19 cases dropped from a peak of nearly 70 in early May to an average of fewer than 10 over the past few weeks.

Passengers are subjected to temperature checks and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests when arriving at Cuban airports. Medical teams will also conduct epidemiological monitoring at touristic centers and hotels.

Luis Armando Gonzalez, deputy president at Gran Caribe hotel chain, said that rigorous disinfecting and cleaning procedures have been carried out at hotel facilities across the country amid the pandemic.

"New health protocols are being implemented to guarantee the safety of tourists," he said, adding "Cuba will continue to be a safe destination."

Cuban authorities also said a special offer will be available for international tourists who want to recover from COVID-19 through medical services provided by the country's health experts.

Jose Luis Perello, a university professor and expert on tourism, said that unlike other Caribbean destinations, Cuba has the capacity to provide tourists with services offered by a strong public health system in the context of COVID-19 emergency.

"Most five-star hotels in Cuba are on the coastline, and particularly in the northern and southern keys of the country. This is the best hotel infrastructure we have," he said.

Perello added that top markets of the Cuban tourism industry such as Canada and the European countries keep their borders closed due to the pandemic, which makes the arrival of international tourists on the island nation more complex.

Cuba has 241 beach destinations, and ranks the second in the Caribbean behind the Dominican Republic in terms of the number of international tourist arrivals.

In 2019, Cuba's tourism industry declined significantly after the U.S. administration issued new restrictions on travels of U.S. nationals to Cuba and barred U.S. airlines from flying to all destinations in the Caribbean nation.

The tourism industry in Cuba accounts for nearly 20 percent of the country's hard currency earnings.

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