The Caribbean draws visitors from all over the world with its perfect seas and unmatched beaches, laid back lifestyle and rich, varied cultures. So it can be no surprise that the pandemic’s interruption to international travel has led to economic devastation across the region and a heart-rending assault on people’s livelihoods.
Cubans, although more protected by their government than most, haven’t escaped the devastation. Only 1.85 million foreign visitors arrived on the island last year, a decrease of 74.6 % on 2019.
Rather than wait for better times, Cuba’s various tourism agencies, government departments and local operators have faced the challenge with courage and imagination. Facilities have been refurbished and new activities have been dreamed up. As a result a brighter, even more enticing Cuba awaits guests when normality returns.
That doesn’t mean life will go back to what it was before the virus, and so a ‘new normal’ will emerge. The Cuban Ministries of Tourism and Public Health are already setting new standards for hotel health safety with the Certification of Tourism+Hygienic and Safe. It has been adopted by 2,537 facilities throughout the country, to ensure the good health of visitors but also, as importantly, those working in tourism.
Meanwhile, the vaccines against COVID-19 created by Cuba’s cutting edge laboratories are now in late stage trials. There are plans to vaccinate the country’s entire population over the summer. Cuba, which educates around 10,000 doctors a year, has taken the world by surprise, showing itself the match of the global pharmaceutical industry.
To look more deeply at the challenges facing tourism, we visit Varadero, 20 kilometers of famously exquisite sand on a spit of land known for its beauty and conservation. Varadero is an “Environmental Beach” according to the certification granted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.
Elsewhere in this issue, we join the hugely talented musicians of Matanzas based jazz band Mestizaje. And, returning to health, we present Cuba’s remarkable advances in stem cells research, a subject close to my heart, or rather my shoulder, as I have recently benefited from the treatment myself.
If all that doesn’t whet your appetite, then I point you to the recipe for rice with okra on page 100, Cuban cuisine at its best.
As always, to find out more about the real Cuba, visit