Published on : Thursday, October 7, 2021
Now the vacationers are returning to one of the Caribbean’s most iconic beaches, which has been a nearly abandoned strip of glittering sand and turquoise seas for more than a year. Varadero Beach, the surfside star of Cuba’s crucial tourism industry, is slowly getting ready for Cuba’s planned November 15, 2021 formal reopening to global visitors.
Right now, the handful of tourists, largely from Russia or Canada, have strolled across the 22-kilometre (13-mile) swath of sand in recent days, hunting out the scattering of restaurants that have reopened, dawdling over handicrafts at the few stands that have reappeared.
The medical personnel scan hotel visitors for signs of fever. The waiters, desk clerks and sellers of trinkets wear doubled masks as they cater to unmasked visitors in bathing suits. Largely empty tour buses run down the main boulevard.
At least some of the 60 or so hotels in Varadero remain closed, or pressed into service as quarantine centers. But others are already running.
About 100 people were staying at the 386-room Iberostar Selection Varadero on one day last week.
Juan Carlos Pujol, Cuba operations manager for the Spanish hotel chain, said the company had taken advantage of the pandemic closure to update restaurants or make adjustments for health measures, such as moving tables further apart or extending the reach of wi-fi to broader open expanses.
He said that they are very content and hopeful because now they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they want to resume operations how and begin to recover what they had always had.
The pandemic was a terrible blow to tourism in Cuba, which depends heavily on the industry, especially after a series of ever-tighter embargo measures imposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump — and that have not been significantly relaxed under his successor, Joe Biden.
Even so, she said she worries that she could be infected with COVID-19 while at work and bring it home.
Another vender, Richard Martin, estimated that only about 50 of the resort’s 5,000 artisans so far have returned to sell after months of hardship.
Cuba says it plans to have vaccinated 90% of its eligible population by the end of November— taking advantage of its unusually advanced biomedical industry to create the only locally developed COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America.
That has allowed officials to plan a gradual reopening to visitors, particularly in Varadero, some 150 kilometers (95 miles) east of Havana.