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CAYO COCO — Cuba has welcomed back its first international tourists – Canadians onboard an Air Canada flight – since closing its borders in March due to the global pandemic.
The flight, which carried 104 passengers from Montreal this past weekend, marked the reopening of the island for international tourism. Flights from Toronto will also resume this month, with additional destinations in Cuba to be announced soon.
In August, Travelweek first broke the news of the resumption of Air Canada flights from Canada, with Air Canada Vacations’ Nino Montagnese, Managing Director, confirming service from both Toronto and Montreal to Cayo Coco starting this month.
Cuba began easing travel restrictions on July 1 with the reopening of hotels in the Cayos – Cayo Santa María, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Largo del Sur – to international tourists only. It wasn’t until September, however, that international flights resumed, with Air Canada and also Transat offering direct flights from several gateways.
Lessner Gomez, Director of The Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto, welcomed the news of Cuba’s first flights from Canada.
“We are very excited to receive Canadians back in Cuba. All the right safety protocols are in place and Canadians can travel Cuba with confidence knowing that Cuba is a safe destination where they can spend winter.”
In preparation of the return of visitors, Cuba has implemented a mandatory free COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival. According to Lessner, 100% of all passengers on the Air Canada flight tested negative.
In addition to testing and other safety measures, including temperature checks at the airport and mandatory masks at the airport and during transfers, tourism authorities have also upgraded all tourism facilities with enhanced services, including credit card capabilities. Though the use of credit cards is nothing new, said Lessner, the service was very limited to just hotels and major shopping centres.
“Now, as part of the Covid measures and in order to avoid dealing with cash, the government has extended the use of credit cards to pay for all services in and out of hotels, including taxis, car rentals, tours and more,” he added.
Lessner also noted that this new measure has been well received by Canadians, who said it’s not only more convenient and safe, but that it also allows them to avoid having to exchange currency into Convertible pesos (CUC).
“Now tourists can pay directly with credit cards or directly with their own currency,” said Lessner. “This is undoubtedly good news for Canadian vacationers who are looking forward to exploring the Cayos.”